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Vocal Tips for Broadcast Journalists

When you listen to journalist, whether on radio or via television, you can’t help but notice that they bear a great responsibility as communicators reporting information to the public.

Telling stories in an eloquent and objective way, many times as they are breaking, is a skill that requires poise, accuracy and an authoritativeness that only informed presenters can exude.

How does one develop radio broadcasting skills?

Find out how you can apply voice acting skills to your current job to help you land more freelance voice-over gigs in today’s VOX Daily.

Summer School

This afternoon I had the great privilege of speaking to a group of students in Western’s Masters of Arts Journalism program in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, this particular class taking place in Middlesex College, nestled on the top of the hill in a beautiful, Collegiate Gothic-style building.

Lecturer Keith Tomasek, who has some theatre background, invited me to share about the care of the voice and how the instrument is used.

Of interest to note is that I first got in touch with Keith because of his website where he aggregates reviews and encourages dialogue about North America’s top classical Repertory Theatre Company.

Tomasek teaches the class in collaboration with Faculty member and CBC journalist Amanda Margison.
Whether announcing on air or engaging viewers on-camera, all broadcasters need to know how to communicate well using their voice.

The Story and the Storyteller

Part of my presentation spoke to ways broadcast journalism students could gain a new appreciation for how their voices and interpretation of what they’re reading can impact an audience make a difference in how a message is received. The media is being held to a high standard with the expectation that reporters present news stories objectively and consider all the angles. It’s from that depth of understanding that a news presenter can properly determine the overall tone of the piece as well as nuances such timing, where to breathe and in some cases, depending on the story, when it’s okay to have fun!

Your Sound

After going through a number of vocal health related topics, we discussed having a voice sample or demo of their work, getting connected on LinkedIn and also how to seek out opportunities to share their gift of storytelling beyond live broadcasts and into the realm of voice-over.

Many of the students had some exposure to musical training, some of them even vocal training. If I’m not mistaken, there was even an actor in the room! Some wanted to go into work at the national level covering politics while others were interested in announcing for sports.

After asking the students if they had any heroes in broadcast journalism, many chimed in with their picks naming greats such as Peter Mansbridge, Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer. While discussing these personalities, they discovered that each of those people had a brand, embodied something that made them unique. Instead of trying to sound like someone else or take on the mannerisms of their favourite broadcaster, I encouraged them to develop their own brand and adopt best practices and select aspects of what they see and hear from icons in the field. A broadcaster, just like a voice artist, has a voice that they are known best for; their signature voice.

Ready, Set, Read!

For a portion of the time, students came to the front to read news stories that they were familiar with taken from newswires. There were three pieces of copy to choose from and a handful of volunteers. I was impressed by how well they read.
Whenever I invite people to read for me, I first hear their read, make suggestions, ask the group for feedback on their peer’s performance if appropriate and then supply additional direction to see how making even a slight adjustment can add volumes to a read. Something newsreaders need to be aware of in particular is who their audience is and how that piece of information affects their interpretation and audience response.

Why Broadcasters Need to Know their Audience

On July 14th it was announced that London International Airport in London, Ontario Canada is adding a flight to Newark Liberty International Airport in October of this year, making London only 90 minutes away, give or take, from New York.

For people living in London, this is big news, but for people living in say, Toronto, it may be small potatoes. That said, if someone reading the story to a London audience didn’t know why Londoners would be excited about this, they might not be able to do justice to the story and deliver it in a meaningful way. Likewise, a journalist needs to know how to present the same information to those outside the city and competently convey the significance of this announcement so that it is widely understood.

For Londoners, it means not having to drive to Toronto and make their way to Toronto Pearson International Airport for NYC or catch ViaRail to Union Station and then get on a ferry to the island airport, Billy Bishop, to fly to Newark, NJ. This new United Airlines flight means a shorter distance to travel from home and less time travelling period. With two flights departing from London to Newark and returning each day, Londoners can easily go to New York for the day and be home in time for supper or to get a good night’s sleep.

Takeaway: Knowing your audience matters because it is the audience that matters. Connect with them and your story will make an impression.

Did You Come From Radio or Television?

Did you come from broadcast journalism and now find yourself doing a bit of voice-over work?
Comment to let us know how you’re doing!

Looking forward to your comments.

With warm regards,

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  • Avatar for Keith Tomasek
    Keith Tomasek
    July 16, 2014, 9:41 am

    Thanks so much for speaking to our students today.
    You inspired us to think about how broadcast journalists need to take care of their voices.
    It was also helpful to consider the changing styles of news anchor delivery. In most major markets, the all knowing voice of Walter Cronkite is becoming a thing of the past.
    Brian Williams’ style, which sounds more, for lack of a better term, friendly sets the standard today.

  • Avatar for Dave Courvoisier
    Dave Courvoisier
    July 16, 2014, 7:29 pm

    As a TV news anchor for 30+ years, now, consultants have ALWAYS admonished me to find my own style…not copy someone else’s.
    But if you think about it…80-90% of what I read “on-camera” is covered with video. So when I launched my VO career I realized two things:
    1) I can have more than one-take! (what an epiphany!…broadcasters get ONLY one take)
    2) VO coaching helps my TV on-air delivery
    Now, when I listen to some of my TV peers, I think: Mic Technique!….no plosives!….no inappropriate emphasis!… just TELL the story.
    Nice article, Steph!
    Dave Courvoisier