Why breaking news sounds the same
Whenever a big news event breaks, you'd swear broadcasters were all reading from the same script. We've all heard these tired phrases:
We begin with breaking news tonight ...
This story is rapidly changing ...
You saw it here first just minutes ago ...
Take a live look behind me ...
Well, in the US, many local broadcasters are using the same script, cynically crafted by a Californian consulting firm, SmithGeiger, to keep viewers hooked.
According to broadcast writing coach Mervin Block, SmithGeiger has supplied its clients with a three-page list of words and phrases to promote urgency.
SmithGeiger's paper, Changing the language of the newscast, explains: "Your voice, your attitude, your energy can make stories urgent ... so do the words you choose. The language we use in the newscast is often a key part of conveying that we have the very latest, that our newscast has the news that is happening now ...
"Each person who touches copy needs to challenge themselves to constantly find the right words that will capture the sense of immediacy and urgency we know viewers are demanding of us."
Here are some of the phrases SmithGeiger advises its clients use:
we do have some breaking news right away
this story is rapidly changing
we are going to be covering this live for you
we are just getting started
but first we begin with
new developments are unfolding
this is a rapidly developing situation
breaking as we go on air
you'll hear in just seconds
we are going to stay on this story every step of the way
we have new information for you as soon as anything happens
we are not stopping with our coverage until this story is done
According to SmithGeiger's website, "37 of the top 55 television markets are influenced by our counsel" and "several of the biggest names in cable and satellite television" are clients.
Read Block's full, withering analysis here.