Lazy TV News Writing

I am currently on the job hunt here in Miami, Florida. This so-called ‘downtime’ has allowed me to test out my domestic skills (i.e. cooking & cleaning), hang out with my cat, spend hours on the computer and watch A LOT of news. I’ve scanned all of the local TV stations (WFOR, WSVN, WTVJ and WPLG) I’ve also watched entirely too much CNN, HLN, Fox News and MSNBC. All of this TV News watching has given me a chance to look at how things are done at different shops, which is always interesting. Each station delivers positive elements I that recognize, learn from and apply to my ‘personal producing arsenal’, while other things make me shudder and ask myself, did that really just happen?

The last station I worked for,  WFTV in Orlando, Florida, was a news machine. Our staff always seemed to be thinking five steps ahead of our competition. Some people love that style, while others don’t. It works in that market and is the reason they are number one in the ratings book after book. One thing I believe they do very well is teach their writers to get out of their comfort zones and ditch the standard ‘TV News cliches’.  Now that I’m on the other side of the screen, those cliches’ stick out like a sore thumb. The anchors might as well be yelling them. Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing them way too much.

During one of my Twitter rants (did I mention I’m bored?), I started spouting off about lazy go-to lines. I was able to find a list from the website SurviveTVNewsJobs. It contained countless examples of words and phrases that TV writers should try to avoid at all costs.

Here is but a few:

Completely/totally destroyed – destroyed will do.

Packs a powerful punch – Alliteration overload.

Parents worst nightmare – Just don’t use this, delete from your mind permanently, just describe what happened.

Gunned down – They were shot. You are not a P.I.O., don’t talk like one.

Slain – Killed. Would you ever say “did you see that story about the girl who was slain in the park?” to a friend? Didn’t think so.

Apprehended – Arrested.

Authorities – Which ones? Tell us WHO.

Went missing – My formed ND Bob Jordan dies when people use this. They are missing/gone/disappeared.

Fled on foot – Ran/walked/skipped. I didn’t “flee on foot” home from school growing up. Did you?

Automobile – Car, suv, truck, pickup.

Area residents – Do you call your neighbors area residents? Yeah, me neither.

Injury Accident – Huh? I think you are missing a word.

Motorists – Drivers.

White stuff – It is snow. Unless you are a college kid talking about drugs, or a fan of the shabby chic trend.

Allegedly – I ‘allegedly’ ate too much nutella this week. No, my sister claims/says/believes I ate too much nutella. Anyway, she’s probably right.

ATM machine – I can’t be bothered to tell you if you don’t see the problem. Google it.

These are just a few. I really could go on, but in the spirit of just giving you the facts, I’ll stop now.

If you have any phrases you really despise you can email me and I’d be happy to add them to the list.

Happy writing!