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The Roadmap of a TV newscast
The Run Order of a newscast is designed to place stories in an order that the viewers would like to watch them. It has become an integral part of strategic planning in today’s audio-visual production. NILAMBAR RATH offers a quick tutorial.
Posted/Updated Friday, Sep 30 12:59:09, 2011
The order in which the stories are being run or aired in a TV newscast is termed ‘Run Order’. Some stations also use the term ‘Run Down’ for the same. It is basically a written statement prepared by the news producer for any particular newscast. Everybody, in the news production system, say the panel director in the PCR, the news anchor, on-line graphics operators, follow this discipline during telecast. It is like the roadmap of a particular newscast.
 
A well crafted Run Order not only ensures a coordinated-production but also gives competitive edge to the producer. An RO also carries certain basic (production) information on each item. It includes name or slug (as mentioned in the server) of the story, format (production format, say package or anchor-visuals or byte or voxpop etc.), duration of the story etc.
 
In the RO news stories are being placed according to their relevance and importance. Thus top stories and major updates (of the hour/day) are placed at the top in the RO. It also takes care of the profile or characteristics of the newscast, the target audience and the production pattern designed for the show. For example, top political stories, crime, other major events are carried in the first part or segment of the bulletin, while sports and weather stories are placed at the end.
 
Producers apply different strategies to the RO to attract and retain eye balls. In the print medium a reader can skip a story, or even a page, and go to the story of his interest. But in case of broadcast medium, the audience doesn’t get a choice. He has to see what the station is airing. So, the newscast cannot hold viewers for a long time if the quality of the stories and their telecast order do not impress upon it’s target audience.
 
Some producers use a pattern in the RO which is called as ‘Peak and Valley’ formula. In PAV, one uses the most powerful and most engaging stories at the beginning and end of a segment and keep less powerful stories in between them. This technique sometimes carries the audience to the next segment.
 
In a normal primetime newscast different types of stories are being presented in a logical manner. It includes top regional stories, stories of national importance, major international developments, human-interest items, business, sports and weather. In the broadcast news medium ‘breaking news’ is also given utmost importance and it gets accommodated at any time during a show. So the RO is not a water tight plan, rather a dynamic tool which accommodates news items in proper order at any point of time before end of the newscast.
 
Normally, a News Producer designs the RO based on relevance and importance of the stories. However, attention is also given to the ‘format’. So the Station’s investigative or exclusive stories are being highlighted and carefully placed in the RO to attract and hold more eye balls towards the Brand.
 
In an on-going event or a major development, Live-shots or live interactions with the correspondent from the field or live chat with an expert or a guest in the studio or from a location can be planned in the story order. It may help the producer to engage the target audience with an interesting presentation. Thus a lot of ‘Live’ stories are always planned in between ‘static’ (already packaged) items to make the newscast dynamic and current.
 
Interesting stories are positioned as ‘Coming Up’ to hold the audience for the next segment. These are like shuttles which try to transport the audience smoothly from one segment to the next.   The Run Order of any newscast or slot may vary from producer to producer. The RO is designed on the basis of importance and relevance of news items, characteristics of the particular newscast, station’s priorities (of the hour or the day); over and above the strategic power and creativity of the particular news producer.

(The writer is a senior broadcast media professional and media teacher)

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