In the old days — the 1990s — radio reporters and anchors played soundbites on cartridges, or carts. They looked like the 8-track tapes your parents may remember.
I’m not advocating going back to that ancient technology, but I am longing for the way journalists crafted their stories around their soundbites.
Since the cart sometimes wouldn’t play when the journalist pressed the On button, scripts were written to deal with that inevitability. Lead-ins to soundbites came at the end of a sentence, so if there was silence because of cart failure, the audience wouldn’t know, and the anchor would move on to the next story.
That meant that a journalist might have to get creative, and change his or her wording if the soundbite started in the middle of a sentence, or didn’t contain a complete thought.
It’s called “writing around sound.”
Nowadays, reporters and anchors often lead into their soundbites without finishing their sentences, stopping at an awkward point and inserting an actuality that starts in the middle of a sentence.
I recall hearing a reporter leading into an MOS soundbite stopping after saying a football quarterback’s first name, because the person on the street’s response began with the quarterback’s last name.
How jolting to the listener. And unnatural.
A person listening to audio on the radio or online has to be able to follow the storytelling flow effortlessly. It’s difficult or impossible to rewind to hear something that was missed or confusing.
So, it’s important for reporters and journalists on all platforms to make it easy for users to hear and understand their story, the first time they hear it. Sometimes that involves taking time and creativity to make the story flow.
In this case, old school is better.