W A B C R A D I O N E W
- a historical perspective from 1978 -
December, 1978 -- WABC's newscasts are short, tight, and
expertly delivered, in keeping with the rest of the programming at this popular
Top-40 station known to millions as "Musicradio WABC."
The newscaster commences
his work under the finishing notes of a song...
|Hear how a WABC newscast sounds in 1978, plus an interview
with WABC news director Paul Ehrlich.
triple fatal fire... it may be arson...
is John Meagher, WABC News...
adults are dead, a twelve-year-old boy is burned over 50 percent of his
body, in a house fire this morning in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Firemen
in Bridgeport say there've been a series of fires in the area, this one
suspected of being a case of arson.
a tentative settlement with the pressmen, the Times and Daily news are
still at odds with the Driver's union. The drivers want the publishers
to replenish their pension and welfare fund. The fund was drained during
the strike. The publishers so far have refused. They'll talk about it again
raided an apartment in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section last night. They
report the arrest of two men and two women and the seizure of 150 pounds
of marijuana, a machine gun, and a pistol.
Koch administration says it's not going to enforce new laws requiring
that municipal workers live within the city limits until it sees
a Supreme Court ruling. A Supreme Court justice has ruled that the residency
law does not apply to uniform city employees.
The greenback... makes a comeback... Here's
Short Newscast Require Tight Writing
The newscasts at WABC generally run at about five minutes, and those
preceding a network newscast can be as short as a minute. "That's
all they would give me," quips WABC News Director Paul Ehrlich.
Ehrlich believes that no matter how long or short the newscast, crisp writing
is key to getting a point across effectively.
"Obviously, with a one
minute newscast, or a two minute newscast , unless you're going to take
the whole newscast for one story, you're gonna tell the whole story in two
lines, maybe three, and try to get seven or eight stories in that
one minute. In a five minute newscast, your strictures are a lot looser.
Still, we have to be concise. You have to look for the word that will
tell a phrase, the phrase that will tell a sentence, the sentence that
will tell a paragraph. It's common sense, the only trick is in the execution."
"Some people have that pretty
well right off the bat, others learn it through experience and practice.
There's no great trick to it: You write positive sentences, simple
sentences, declarative sentences," says the WABC News Director. ("I don't
even know what all those words mean," jokes Ehrlich, "but I've heard them
so often and I know that's what we do.")
As an example, stay away
from parenthetic phrases: "You don't say, 'John Jones, the Mayor of New York
City...' explains Ehrlich. "You say, 'John Jones... did...' and then in your
next sentence, 'The Mayor did...'"
"You look for tricks that
are gonna save you time, but that don't shortcut through anything that's
essential. You may have to stop at a certain point and not tell any more,
but you have to make sure that you... have told the essence of the story."
Creating a Style that Works for Musicradio 77
Ehrlich admits that running
news at one of the nation's premier Top-40 stations does require tailoring
news writing and delivery somewhat to the audience, but WABC news doesn't
resort to jargon or cuteness.
"[Tailoring to the audience]
does not mean that we... try to imitate a rapid-fire, machine-gun paced disc
jockey. No. What it means is that we won't give you an Encyclopedia Britannica
type language. I don't think our language is really all that different
from Walter Cronkite, for instance."
But he differentiates WABC's
style from stations such as WQXR, which he characterizes as "a bit stuffy."
"They use big words,"
says Ehrlich, reflecting on WQXR. "We use big words, too --
when they're the right words. But treaties can become pacts, or pacts
can become agreements, or whatever."
And, beyond reporting
and writing, presentation is a key factor in the popularity of a news format.
"The thing that distinguishes
a good news person in New York from a news person just starting out
who hasn't sharpened all his skills yet," says Ehrlich, "is [one] a certain
amount of flair... [two] a certain amount of confidence... and [three] quickness.
That doesn't mean quickness in one-liners or repartee. It means an
ability to tell something in ... not just the right words, but with a little
glamor, or flair -- to make a story a little bit different from the way it
is on cold, hard, dry paper. That's experience, that's talent."
- 30 -
WABC Picture Gallery - Tons of photographs from the WABC newsroom and studios.
News Format - Broadcast news format from typical morning, Fall, 1978.
Schedules - News schedule and rundowns from a Fall, 1978 morning.
WABC Datasheet - Station stats
on staffing, wires, cart machines, and much more!
Visit more stations - Back to
the home page to visit more stations' news departments.
WABC Elsewhere on the Internet:
MusicRadio77.com - A "must
visit" site that includes scads of air checks, interviews, and remembrances
of Music Radio WABC, the greatest Top-40 radio outlet of all time!
WABC Anchor History - A partial chronology of anchors and personnel
at WABC, from Bill Dulmage's site.
WABC and other
NYC stations in the 1964 New York City Blackout - A recreation from
Broadcast Engineering magazine, by radio historian Jeff Miller.
Today's WABC - WABC is now an
This research documentary is Copyright 1979, 2002 Martin
Hardee - All Rights Reserved. (read more...) Material may be
quoted or excerpted for non-profit research purposes without additional
special permission. For additional information email martin @ hardee.net.