Tommy Kramer Tip #230 – Literally putting a Different Twist on the News

You hear this every day, if you listen long enough: The same stories, with almost, or nearly almost the exact same wording every newscast. This is a quick way to not stand out at all.

One of radio’s greatest pioneers, Gordon McLendon, even though he primarily did Top 40 (which he and Kansas City’s Todd Storz INVENTED), was known for hiring and training incredibly talented News staffs. I had the great pleasure of working with two of them, at KNUS in Dallas (which helped change the landscape of FM radio in the early seventies) and KILT, longtime Top 40 giant in Houston.

Both news staffs were incredible – chock full of amazing writers with riveting deliveries, every bit as much “personalities” as the disc jockeys were. And each of them learned on Day One the McLendon Rule: Rewrite every story for every newscast.

Yes, the basic facts were the same. But the entries INTO stories that repeated were always just a little different, and what was left out of one newscast would be in another one, so rather than dull repetition, those tiny differences made the listener’s brain receive it as NEW information.

This principle was later documented in a study at Cal Tech, where they found that just repeating something led to boredom, but even the slightest changes fired new synapses in the brain. Gordon McLendon had no such research. He simply felt it was the right thing to do.

This is largely an overlooked area of radio news segments, but when you do it, you lift yourself above all your competition. And it’s easy, requiring minimal effort.

Have you listened to your news lately? Maybe a better question is “Has your audience paid any attention to it?”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #20 – News tips

We’ve all heard the old saying “No news is good news.”

Seems like a lot of radio stations believe that nowadays, but I would remind you that no news is NO NEWS, and unless you’re aware of what’s going on today, Pandora or my iPod is a better choice.

So whether you have newscasts in your shift – or even on your station – at all, you need to be my smart friend who’s keeping an eye on things for me, because a school shooting, a tsunami, or a giant wreck on the freeway could happen at any moment.

Let’s just approach this from a News standpoint, and how it’s not still 1963, so it’s not the Huntley & Brinkley and Walter Cronkite world anymore. Today the newsperson you watch or listen to it the one that seems like a real person who’s into being right up-to-the-moment on what’s going on. If you’re just a jock, not a newsman, hopefully a lot of this will still help you on the air when you have a big story to talk about.

1. Use real words. Words that real people use in everyday conversation. It’s not “Judge C. Arnold Jamison of the 3rd District court ruled that…” etc. It’s just “the judge said…” etc. It’s not “the alleged robber was apprehended by authorities two blocks away,” it’s “the police caught the guy they think did it.” It’s not “A fire department spokesperson said the blaze will continue for several hours,” it’s “Jim Green, the Fire Chief said it’s still dangerous because not all of the fire is out yet.”

2. Don’t “announce” or “present,” just share the story. Big, deep voices speaking in grave, authoritarian tones just sound like old men lecturing small children. Lighten up. Just talk, like you would to a friend.

3. Rewrite every story for every newscast. It revives YOUR interest in the story to see it from a slightly different “camera angle” each time. One time, it’s about an explosion in a warehouse. The next time, it’s about the guy who got out safely. The next time, it’s about what happened in the neighborhood when the big boom hit. Starting the story a different way each time keeps it from getting stale. And you can take that “other person’s shoes” perspective and follow it to get a whole different take on the event.

4. KNOW the story. Know it well enough to talk about it with some degree of clarity and credibility. Like Will McAvoy on “The Newsroom,” actually learning the facts can set you apart from the people who are just reading news print off the wire.

5. Talk to ONE person. I can’t stand stories with things like “30% of you agree.” Thirty percent of me is just a leg and a forearm. “30% of people agree”—talking to me about those “other” people, is a better way to go.

There’s lots more, in terms of performance, but these points are a good “starter kit” for you. Let’s make News a reason to tune you in, instead of a reason to tune you out.

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2013 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.