Part of her gig is reading a quick update every half hour and everyone (including her!) is concerned about reading errors being made in these segments of the show where she's executing every other aspect of her role almost perfectly.
The PD confessed that he knows next to nothing about news writing or reporting and feels like he doesn't know what to tell her, given that all other aspects of work work are exemplary, including the ratings of the morning show.
I asked her to play me a sample air check of a typical 'cast where she wished she had done a better job of reading.
She knew exactly what to play for me: "the 44-year old man was killed in the accident, police say, because he had difficulty negotiating the turn.."
What caused her reading of that story to be less than natural and conversational, she said, was because she got to thinking in mid-sentence that perhaps a better word than "negotiating" and wondered if "navigating" was the correct word.
Of course, I told her that if she wanted to think about things like that it needed to be done when she pre-read the stories in advance and encouraged her to prep better so that things didn't catch her by surprise.
Ultimately, just between us, I actually blame the person who wrote the story even more.
- "44-year old" is newspaper style writing. Archaic. Does giving the age increase or decrease the power of the lead?
- "Police say" isn't really needed is it? The guy is dead. If there's any doubt, of course, attribute it, but if not, why use the old wire service style of writing when you know someone really was prounced dead and relatives have been notified.
- "Negotiating/navigating?" Rather than trying to show off your fancy reading vocabulary, how about simply writing to be "heard" and "read."
A note to news writers and all of the people who have to read their output: if the youngest person on your staff - who happens to be right in the center of the target of your radio station - can't easily read and understand every story, how do you expect listeners to?
Make the turn.
Simplify your news writing. Lower the grade level of what you write. Simple sentences. Short phrases, like telegrams. Powerful, active verbs.
It's not about dumbing down your news. It's about making it appeal to a larger audience.