Most television Web sites have left the age of shovelware behind, thank goodness. It took a while, but stations finally figured out that simply posting TV scripts online wouldn’t entice anyone to visit a site twice. That said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. TV stories don’t just need to be rewritten for the Web, they need to be rethought.
Reporter Jason DeRusha of WCCO-TV in Minneapolis says writing for online publication may be the “most important and least appreciated” part of his job. At his station, reporters don’t hand off their stories to a Web producer for rewriting; they’re expected to write their own Web versions and to understand how Web writing is different.
Online readers expect you to get to the point right away. On-air, you might build your story to a climactic point. Online readers expect you to cite your sources, specifically. Online readers expect you to link to source material.
DeRusha admits that when he first started writing Web stories, he hated the extra work. But he’s figured out how to make it count:
I love adding the extra information that I had to leave out because of time. I love the challenge of coming up with a provocative headline to attract viewers. And I’m proud of the fact that when people link to my stories, they get a well-written story, under my name, and under my station’s brand.