The Different Languages of News

  • May 1, 2017

By Nick Kalantzopoulos

When I had my official interview with Terry Sheridan, WSHU’s Long Island bureau chief, whom I had first met at the journalism internship fair, he told me that I would learn to find my radio voice if I were to work at WSHU. He let me read out a story in the station’s sound booth, a reading that he said was not an audition. I was confused at first, thinking to myself, “Why do it then?” Having completed the internship at WSHU, I now realize that I had to become more aware of my voice as I progress as a journalist.

As a radio reporter, your voice matters. You have to record yourself, listen to the mistakes you make while reading out loud, try to take out any quirks you have acquired in terms of an accent, and learn to get better. You also have to learn to write with a radio voice.

It may sound ironic, but writing with a radio voice is not only real, but also crucial. You have to be succinct, you have to be clear, and you have to make sure your message if taken in. I may have made multiple takes to record something, but the listener has only one chance to hear it. Radio reporters have to keep this in mind not only while tracking but while writing as well.

When writing a story for a newspaper or an online publication, which are the only forms of media I had produced in previous internships, I could give the facts in a much more nuanced form. The price of being unclear was a small one, because the reader could just go back and read it again to better understand what I wrote. Not that you want this to be necessary, but it is possible for the reader to go back When reporting for radio, nuance is replaced with an acknowledgement that what is being heard must be easily understood because it can be heard once and only once.

Another thing that I learned along the way is that when I have finished writing my stories, even when they are radio stories, there will be times when editors and I have disagreements on what should be in the story. In my first couple of internships, I was much more passive, aware that my editors’ knowledge and experience gave them the absolute edge when we disagreed on wording.

This semester, feeling a bit more comfortable and sure of myself, I did push back sometimes. When I felt that a story, especially one that is only 45 seconds long, was missing key information, I chose to push for my work. I still gave my editors the benefit of the doubt on most occasions, knowing full well that they still have more knowledge in terms of the community that I was covering, but they had to convince me why they were right.

This change was something I expected as I became more experienced, but I found I was not fully ready for how I would react to disagreements. On rare occasions, I wrongly took these disagreements personally. It took me a few minutes to realize that we were on the same team and that this friction was a good thing, not a bad one.  

If I were to give advice to next year’s interns at WSHU, I would tell them that all experience is good experience for a journalism student, and that there are many voices in journalism. Radio writing is different from newspaper writing, which is different from television writing. As an intern, learn what it is to find your voice in your respective field, and gain confidence in your work.