How to Write a TV News Package Script

By Laurie Brenner
A news package script includes video footage in the field.

All journalists know how to create a news story by answering the age-old questions of who, what, where, when, why and how. But doing so for a television news program isn't the same as writing a news piece for a newspaper or a magazine; it's a horse of a different color. As a self-contained news story, the news package contains video footage, interviews, sound bites, voice-over narration and sometimes a stand-up, which can occur at the beginning, middle or end of the story. Employ words in the narration that evoke images and sound good, especially for the introduction.

Find the Story

Before you begin the process of creating the news package script, complete the legwork in the field. Research the facts, interview key witnesses or people involved in the news event with your cameraman in tow. Find the common thread in the story to help track down people from whom you can get sound bites -- called sounds on tape or SOTs in the industry. Remember that a televised news story has a limited amount of time, so stick to stories that your community will find interesting or important.

Compelling Stand-Ups

Look for good locations to complete your stand ups; as the reporter who advances the story in the field, choose a location that depicts the activity or the event in the background. Avoid repetition in the material collected from the field and keep the reporting neutral. Stick to a narrative style, ensuring that every word conveys important information. Work with the camera person to get compelling video footage -- the B-roll -- for the news voice overs. Also, find captivating NSOTs, natural sounds on tape, such as the sound of pounding ocean waves or rushing river during a massive storm or the chugging of a train as long as it ties into the news story.

Back in the Studio

Use the television studio's script software system, template or create two columns on your page, the left for video and the right for audio. The left identifies the intro, shot or interviewee, slugs, SOT, NSOTs or voice over, while the right side contains the words for the audio portion. Each studio may have its own format and protocols for the actual script. Write the introduction for the news anchor, keeping it concise and brief. For statistical information, create any graphics the anchor can use. Review the stand-ups, the SOTs and the NSOTs, ideally you have more than just one or two, to choose the best ones to include in your package script. Ensure that the video content on the left includes the written words for the audio on the right. Use NSOTs to create natural breaks in the content.

Record the Audio

If you have more audio that you must record from the right side of your script, do so in the studio's audio booth. Identify each audio track individually on the script by the protocol required for the television studio. If you must complete more than one take, ensure the audio portion of the script contains this information. Once this is completed, hand the news package script into the editor for final review. Don't forget to include any release or waiver forms you obtained in the field from those you interviewed.

About the Author

As a native Californian, artist, businessperson, contractor, journalist and published author, Laurie Reeves began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. In 2003, she and her husband moved into the home she designed, they built and decorated. Reeves graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.