More to that "newscastery sound" than just accent

As a radio news guy who’s spent a career encouraging journalists to sound like they’re talking, not reading – because people who sound like they’re talking about something they know have more credibility than people who sound like they’re reading something written by someone else – I assure you, Cecil, it’s more than just the accent that sets news people apart.

It’s inflection: It’s thoughtless emphasis on the wrong words. It’s a repeated tendency to end sentences “up,” instead of “down.” It’s what you might call “flight attendantitis.”

And it’s the writing, too – notably a failure to write with contractions and pronouns.

I’ve written and taught extensively on this subject, but it’s a neverending battle. More here:

… and here:

There’s a difference between newsreaders - reading someone else’s bulletin of whatever events have or haven’t happened - and journalists describing/explaining/discussing/analysing/giving background. The former needs a particular combination of neutrality and authority, while the latter needs to make a more direct and personal connection to the audience.


would be just professional incompetence in both, surely?

Arguably forgoing pronouns and contractions is a stylistic choice, not professional incompetence. If the object is to sound formal, then the choice stands to reason.

The inflection on the other hand simply sounds like people with no talent for acting attempting to do what is essentially acting. It is little different to the way 5th graders butcher their lines in the school play.

The worst violator of “emphasis on the wrong words” in my experience in NPR’s Nina Totenberg. I can see why she was demoted to mere changes-in-the-law stories (maybe even just Supreme and circuit court opinion stories) a few years ago…and I still TEND to switch off THE radio whenever her voice COMES on.

Although NPR reporters each have their quirks, I can’t really complain about them because the BBC is a hundred times worse. And commercial radio is just hopeless.

Every newscaster ought to study Bob Trout, the way jazz musicians study Louis Armstrong. You don’t necessarily want to copy him, just absorb his rhythm, pacing, and listenability.

“Stylistic choice” is a kind word for it, especially when it comes to avoiding verbs, which has developed into a newscasters’ disease.

Fantastic, thanks.

I find that over-portentous and stagey. Even though, admittedly, what it’s describing is ultra-dramatic news, there’s a risk of editorialising in both wording and presentation. It’s what I’d expect from a newsreel commentary to an audience of hundreds in a cinema, not at all what I’d expect as someone explaining to me in my front room what’s going on in the world.