Today, TV journalists are asked to be marketing specialists more than ever before. Producers often tweet about the production elements they design, the graphics packages they approve and the pre-produced opens and teases they come up with.  This is where producing gets really creative.  It truly is a place where you can make your mark.

It also is the place where weaknesses are painfully exposed.  Misspelled supers, OTS’s with weird slugs, and tickers full of factual errors KILL you. There are methods to keep from making these embarrassing mistakes.  Let’s start with supers where you must “name” each story.

The name game:

  • Think story slug
  • Use alliteration sparingly
  • Avoid cliches

When you have two line supers that need a slug on top and location on the bottom, keep it simple.  You need to clearly summarize the story in two words. Think story slug.

You must define what the story is.  This helps make sure you use alliteration sparingly  and hopefully avoid cliches.  If you get too cutesy you stand a high chance of trivializing the story.  So avoid being cute, unless it is a really fluffy story.

Now the art of naming an OTS.  Keep it simple.  Again, a story slug kind of name is good.  If you try to include too much detail, you can cause problems.  If this is for a copy story, remember the OTS name will sit up next to your anchor’s head the entire story.  You do not want it to refer to one specific line of copy in the story.  For example: an OTS that says arrest, when the arrest is not mentioned until the last line of the story.  That is very confusing for the viewer.

Finally, errors are the number 1 credibility killer for “banners” and tickers.  These must be proofread.  You must spell check in some way.  You must pay extremely careful attention to grammar.  You simply cannot consider this a nuisance job and slam it out.  The ticker often gets the viewers attention more than half the a-block you agonized over.  The simple reason: viewers get more than one chance to look at it, and therefore more than one chance to notice any errors.  There is no room for error.  Have someone look at it forward and backward, to check for spelling errors.  Once it’s written, read it out loud to yourself.  Have someone else proof read it, by reading it out loud also.  Your ear will often catch mistakes your eyes don’t.

A final thought:  When doing fancy, pre-produced, elements have someone look them over before they air.  I used to put together sophisticated cold opens and tease 1’s.  I made an editor (different than the one who cut them) watch them, then asked the entire production crew to review them as well.  This was done daily.  There can be no mistakes in banner coverage.  It’s simply too important.


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