How to Format a Newscast

By Brent Watkins ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • News stories
  • Weather information
  • Sports stories
Newscast formatting is designed to keep people watching.

Newscast formats depend on the medium, but the most widely recognized format is that of the evening television news. Like the daily paper that has sections for specific types of news and features, a newscast for television follows a logical arrangement of information. The predictability is not a liability, but assists viewers in knowing when they can expect the information they want.

Lead with an overview of top stories. A summary of headline stories allows viewers to know what the day’s news is and arouses their curiosity to learn more. The overall newscast is structured around a descending list of priorities. Highest begins, lowest ends.

Provide lead story detail. After an overview, the detailed reporting of top news stories begins. Arrange the stories according to their news worthiness. The adage “if it bleeds, it leads” may seem vulgar but reflects the reality that people are most interested in stories that involve tragedy or loss of life. Not all lead stories need to be tragic but should appeal to a wide audience.

Preview upcoming stories leading into breaks for commercials. Format the script to include the preview of stories (known as the “tease”). Write teases to keep viewers watching by asking a question that can only be answered in the next segment.

Include less newsworthy stories in the second segment. If necessary, punctuate the second segment with positive stories that help bring balance to the tragic lead stories. Second segment bumps tease the weather segment.

Lead the weather segment with current conditions to keep viewers tuned in for the forecast that ends the segment. The weather segment may also include expanded coverage of national or international weather events covered as lead stories at the beginning of the newscast. Continuing the concept of descending priorities, sports follows weather. Again, use the segment bump to tease the top sports stories.

Begin the sports segment with coaching changes or athlete profiles. End with game scores. Just as weather saves the information people really want (the forecast) for the end, so the sports segment ends with information about how local teams fared at home or on the road.

The traditional “feel good” story that concludes a newscast is designed to leave on a positive note after a wealth of bad news has been covered. A newscast format is designed, above all, to keep people watching the program. Tugging at heart strings with an inspirational story offers viewers an incentive to watch the next newscast.

Tip

The portion of the script leading into a segment break is called a “bump.”

About the Author

Brent Watkins works as a writer, producer and production technologist for film and television. He began writing for "Church & Worship Technology" magazine in 2002. With more than 25 years of industry experience, Watkins is passionate about digital media and emerging production technologies. A graduate of the University of Iowa, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and theatrical arts.