Writing for a new medium

  • May 1, 2020

By Paige Clarke

Working as an intern at WSHU Public Radio was a highly valuable experience and one that I will carry with me as I close my chapter at Stony Brook University and pursue my career path. For 15 weeks, I produced various scripts that covered both local and national news and recorded them to air on the station. I traveled around Long Island and learned how to cover press conferences and other breaking news in person with professional radio equipment. I developed better communication skills by going out in the field and immersing myself in the news I was covering. I developed a stronger voice for radio, one that differs greatly from the visual broadcasting techniques that I used in classes at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.

While script writing and recording seems easy when you look at how short the pieces are, the processes that go into these components contain much precision and analysis. Script writing for radio challenges the writer to cover all the important points of the breaking news while maintaining brevity and making the sentences easy for listeners to understand. Listeners are very different from readers. In radio, producers of scripts and recordings must be able to grab a listener’s attention from the start rather than meander into the important parts of the story with unnecessary intros. For me, this took a bit of practice since I was so used to writing longer-form print stories and creating visual news packages. 

Voice is also an extremely important part of radio recording. This probably took the most practice for me, to keep out the monotony but not go overboard with a “sing-songy” tone. Allow your natural storytelling voice to come through without forcing any sort of predictable or stereotypical news voice. This will only throw off the listeners rather than keep them interested in the story you’re telling. 

I wish I had known more about the differences in writing for radio at the start. I was under the impression that radio and visual broadcast news were quite similar, but writing for radio requires more precision and brevity. In writing scripts for television news, there is a bit more freedom to add descriptive language while maintaining brevity, and the writer also has the visual components to help tell the story. In radio it all comes down to your voice and your writing. 

Coming into this internship with no radio experience helped me to soak up all sorts of tips and tricks for producing for radio. By the end of my internship I could clearly see the differences between radio writing, visual broadcast writing and print writing. I have developed so much more confidence in my voice and my script writing and feel as though I could begin a career in radio or visual broadcasting with the utmost confidence in myself. 

I had the most supportive and helpful supervisors throughout this internship. They guided me from the very start, especially when I was adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic. They pushed me to find my best voice and my best script-writing through constructive critiques and support in the office and over e-mail and phone when I was working from home for the past two months. I want to extend my gratitude to them once more for all their help throughout this semester. I would urge any SOJ student interested in this internship to go for it! It was the most valuable learning experience I could have had, even as everything shut down. You will be pushed to be your best and learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid when you’re out in the field either! You will get so many valuable experiences out of this internship, and supervisors that will be there for you even when your work is done.