When broadcast journalists get to work on breaking news, it’s a moment that always separates the mere readers from the true leaders. The best news anchors and “live” reporters make their work look easy, but it isn’t. Beyond voice, looks or delivery, the best possess what I call “skills without script.”
They communicate with command, comfort and clarity, even — or especially — when a story is developing so rapidly that formats and scripts are useless.
“Skills without script” are built on mental agility, critical thinking and continuous learning.
Here are eight essential “skills without script” that I teach to journalists.
Knowledge base: An understanding of issues, names, geography, history and the ability to put all of these in perspective for viewers. It comes from the journalist’s commitment to being a student of the news.
Ability to process new information: Sorting, organizing, prioritizing and retaining massive amounts of incoming data.
- Ethical compass: Sensitivity to ethical land mines that often litter the field of live breaking news — unconfirmed information, graphic video, words that potentially panic, endanger public safety or security or words that add pain to already traumatized victims and those who care about them.
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This article was excerpted from Poynter Online and published on IJNet with permission. Poynter Online is the website of the Poynter Institute, a school serving journalism and democracy for more than 35 years. Poynter offers news and training that fits any schedule, with individual coaching, in-person seminars, online courses, webinars and more.