Plenty of broadcast journalists fall into traps when it comes to writing scripts, but if you think the audience doesn’t notice, think again.
Rob Owen, a TV critic at the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, recently asked people to submit the “most overused TV news phrases.” Viewers had plenty to offer:
“It’s not clear” is code for “we just don’t know” or “we didn’t bother to find out,” one viewer posted to a post-gazette forum, adding, “If you don’t know, just say it.”
Others commented on the use of “impact” as a verb and the promise of “more details” in upcoming stories.
A former TV producer wrote in to say he counted one reporter saying “We can tell you” five times in a single report.
News directors in the market acknowledged those words and phrases are trite and often unnecessary, but they did defend one bit of TV terminology. Mike Goldrick and Alex Bongiorno both agreed that urging viewers to “Check it out” can have its place in a newscast.
“We understand viewers are sometimes not watching as closely as we are. They have the news on in the background and are multitasking, especially in the morning, so we will use phrases to try to draw your attention to the screen,” Mr. Goldrick said. “If folks don’t like it, I can understand, but that’s the concept behind it, ‘Take a look at this.’ ”
“That one doesn’t really bother me,” WTAE’s Ms. Bongiorno said. “It’s conversational. Maybe it depends how it’s used. In the morning people are not paying attention to the TV, they’re just listening. The moniker ‘check it out’ is something to pull people in. I suppose there are ways it can be used that are too informal, but it just depends.”
My own personal favorite? Anchor intros that include a line saying reporter so-and-so “has more on the story.” Gee, really?
Now, how about you? What are your favorite news cliche’s?