Understanding the Basics of Radio Journalism: Essentials Skills to be a Professional Radio News Broadcaster

The process all news and current affairs radio broadcasts follow to get on-air can be divided into four sections. News staff in most news organisations will usually have learned all the necessary skills to implement all four steps and oversee and sometimes complete the total broadcast from planning to on-air without any assistance. Radio News can sometimes, depending on the size and coverage of the radio station, be an individual task where one person does all the work to get the story to air. All tasks including:

  • Sourcing the Story
  • Investigating and Examining the credibility of the facts
  • Interviewing the people involved
  • Writing the script
  • Editing the audio material
  • Introducing the story, and presenting and broadcasting the bulletin on-air

The Idea Behind the News

There are two main qualities professional news staffs need to learn. Firstly a working knowledge and the necessary skills to complete digital recording and editing, and many, equally importantly would also say, a better than average radio news broadcaster also needs ‘an awareness of life.’

Digital editing skills are relatively easy to learn with application and practice, but an awareness of life is a realisation that all news is about people, or the effects of circumstances on people, and how those people deal with those circumstances. These qualities will impact greatly on the ability of a news reporter to recognise news, and then report it accurately in a format that uses radio to its most effective as a medium.

Pre-production and Scriptwriting

Once the reporter has decided the validity and news worthiness of a particular story, to make the broadcast sufficiently interesting for a radio audience they need to collect suitable audio to bring the news to life. One of the great strengths of radio, as the industry will often tell you, is its ability to paint pictures in the listener’s imagination.

It may not be sufficient, to hold an audience’s attention, to simply read story after story and hope the listener stays tuned. The reporter should be able to write a script and imagine the news piece on- air before it‘s recorded. Then they are more able to collate relevant audio using voice pieces, interviews, sound effects and music and work to their perceived script.

The Production Process and Voicing the Story

Nobody would expect a radio news reporter to also be an accomplished and dexterous sound engineer, but all operational news room staff will possess basic digital editing skills, and become familiar with studio operation. They will also be adaptable and presentable voice-overs or voice talent. The audience must be able to understand what they’re saying. Audio News presenting is a separate skill to general presentation, or commercial voicing. The main difference is that news tends to be delivered slower and more deliberately, and will also be far more reflective of the varying stories being covered.

Getting the Story to air

Briefly all radio news broadcasters should be familiar with the steps to get any story on-air:

  1. Pre-production, Interviewing, Sourcing the Story.
  2. Scriptwriting
  3. The Production Process
  4. And News Broadcast

All radio station news operations tend to be dictated by the size of the station. The bigger the station, the more staff and the greater is the specialisation. At a smaller station, one person may be news editor, reporter, presenter, and engineer, but to all intents and purposes, the process is exactly the same.