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W N B C R A D I O N E W S
- a historical perspective from 1978 -
November 17, 1978 -- As the flagship station for the National
Broadcasting Company, WNBC is expected to exemplify world-class quality and creativity in its programming and news. In its newscasts, the station does this job admirably using snappy writing and a professional, upbeat delivery.
But, this is still NBC. Humor and lead stories don't mix, and (in contrast to competitors such as 99X WXLO) any outright joking is usually reserved for near the end of a newscast after the more serious business is out of the way. Following this tricky recipe, WNBC has managed wrap its news in a friendly, approachable package and yet remain credible to listeners as a news delivery organization.
"Newscasters, I think, should be more conversational," reflects News
Director Meredith Hollaus. "People don't want to listen to somebody preaching
to them. You should tell a story to the audience the same way you would tell
an event that happened to your parents, to your friends, to the guy sitting
next to you on a barstool."
JOCK: Charles McCord now, at 7:27. . .
Shorter Newscasts, Except in Morning Drive
Hollaus says a good newscast should probably not run much over two minutes.
But she says during morning drive people hunger for more information so
the newscasts are longer then.
"We get a tone from the network, and that lets us know the network
is coming up," confides Hollaus, detailing the logistics. "We then
conclude our local newscast. We have seven seconds to tease into the network,
name the network newscaster, and tease his first story... so that also gives
us continuity. It lets our audience know that we're aware of what the network
Of course, because it's NBC owned and operated, WNBC is in a special
position of being able to call the network news desk just before the hour
to find out the lead. "Usually [we do this] as close to airtime as
possible, because lead stories can change very quickly, especially with a
breaking story," says Hollaus.
This complex hand-off is a bit of a high wire act for the WNBC newscaster,
writers and engineer, which is why the station hires seasoned professionals.
"It takes a newscaster who's awake," says Hollaus bluntly. "You need
somebody who's able to read a clock, and knows how to ad-lib. Sometimes you
have to ad-lib out of your local newscast; you may have a long story and you
have to shorten it very quickly if you know, say, you only have ten seconds
left in your local newscast."
Despite the breeziness and familiarity of the writing and delivery, WNBC's newscasters and news management are sticklers about using proper grammar and pronunciation.
"We don't use any slang," affirms Meredith Hollaus. "We use
good English, and good grammar, and there's no excuse for not doing that."
"We'll accept informality, as long as it's not blatantly vulgar," says morning editor Bill Maher, of the station's easy-going style of delivery. "We're not after a gum-chewing image."
Beyond good writing, WNBC believes the right newscaster (for example,
Charles McCord or Sam Hall) can really make words come alive.
"You just can't beat good writing, and good presentation," says Meredith Hollaus. "However, if you could only have one. I'd say good presentation would be more important than good writing. You can have the best written story in the world, and if the newscaster is dull and boring, that's exactly what he's going to communicate to the audience."
"A good newscaster, who's able to present his stories well to the
audience, will sound alive. He'll be able to
grab their attention with his voice, and it makes a lot of difference."