For more than 60 years, television news has broadcast to American households, reporting news and offering lifestyle and human interest stories. Some of the famous newscasters from the past include David Brinkley, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, who was once called "the most trusted man in America." Newscasts are traditionally broken into familiar blocks that include lead stories, other news, sports, weather and a kicker.
Lead news stories are the most important stories that occurred during the day and, even in local newscasts, are often national stories. Lead stories can also consist of breaking news that develops during the news broadcast or that began just before the broadcast went on the air. Some newscasts will actually go live to a reporter who has arrived on the scene of the breaking story, giving viewers up-to-the-minute information on what's happening. According to Meredith Miiller, a news producer for an ABC affiliate in Arkansas, live team coverage and news anchor movement during a breaking lead story can help to engage viewers. Some newscasts only feature one lead story, while others open the newscast by announcing two or three lead stories.
At the conclusion of the lead story block, many newscasts will move on to other less urgent news. The "other news" segment, also known as the "B block," often covers local crimes, arrests, updates on old stories, government activities and lifestyle and health stories. This block takes up the bulk of most newscasts and is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of news and stories news producers feel are important and informative to the average viewer.
The weather block of a newscast provides detailed information on the day's weather, five-day forecast, possible storms and weather disturbances that may strike a particular area. Many weather forecasters use digital, colored maps with graphics that display weather patterns, cloud formations and areas of heavy rainfall. The weather block may also become the lead story in the event of a tropical storm, hurricane, blizzard, heavy rainfall or heat wave that causes disruptions to power, traffic accidents and displaced homeowners.
The sports block of a newscast covers all the day's sporting events, provides scores and shows highlights of played games. Many sports newscasts also include interviews with athletes and sports personalities and often have live coverage of sporting events taking place in the community. Before the advent of national cable sports networks like ESPN, the sports segment was one of the most popular blocks of a newscast; but increasingly, many local stations are cutting back on this block. According to Timothy Franklin, director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, sports is the least-viewed part of a newscast, and news directors are eliminating many of their well-paid sports anchor positions.
The kicker is the last segment of a newscast and often features a bizarre or humorous story intended to end the news on a lighter note. Television news producers also use kickers to humanize their anchors and make them more relatable to the viewing audience. Kickers are designed to make the audience leave a newscast feeling good about what they've just seen as opposed to lingering on the hard news from earlier in the program.
Sampson Quain is a screenwriter and filmmaker who began writing in 1996. He has sold feature and television scripts to a variety of studios and networks including Columbia, HBO, NBC, Paramount and Lionsgate. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.