0228 - Appropriate emotional tone in the news

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0228 - Appropriate emotional tone in the news

You would appear to be a robot or psychopath if you read every story with the same amount of ‘tone of voice’ – from a landslide burying children in a school to a tap-dancing ferret. You need to give appropriate emotional weight to the script, depending on its content and context.

Although you should not be wailing in grief over a royal death, or announce with anger the latest unemployment figures, you can and should usually show some understanding of the significance of the story in your tone of voice. This is because of what we can call ‘universal emotions’: ones which reflect your humanity and concern for your community. These might be a slight serious or sad tone at mass deaths (for example a plane crash), the murder of a child and so on.[1]

Doing this will make you appear more human by showing empathy (as opposed to sympathy) and understanding of the story, without editorialising it.

So, you can see that:

· a story of a family killed in a house fire will be read in a different way to…

· a story of the Prime Minister announcing a package of economic measures for the steel industry, which will be read in a different way to..

· the discovery of a great bearded newt on a nature reserve, which will be read in a different way to…

· someone winning £1 million on the lottery on her 16th birthday on the very first line she ever bought, as well as passing her driving test and getting engaged.

The overall tone of each of those stories will be pitched slightly differently.

Going in reverse, the final one could be read in a light, bright, fun almost incredulous tone, with a smile on your face. The previous story would also be light but it’s not overtly funny although a ‘good news’ story. The ‘steel’ story is neither good nor bad and because of that, and because it is a political story, will be read in a more neutral tone. But the first story is obviously sad and serious.

That’s not to say that story 1 will be read with the same amount (albeit different) emotion as story 4, but you can allow yourself some empathy reflecting your humanity and showing concern for those affected. The same might go for stories of impending disaster which could wreak havoc on a neighbourhood (to your viewers or listeners – your neighbours and clients) such as a severe weather incident, or the death of a beloved royal…

Within those examples, there might be different levels of empathy depending on the particular circumstances: one child killed in a building fire or a whole family; a hurricane that devastates a city or state or severe flooding which has affected farmland and roads; the royal who ‘expectedly’ dies in her sleep at the age of 101 or the one who dies unexpectedly and suddenly in public in a Parisian underpass in the middle of the night being chased by photographers just as she starts a ‘new life’.[2]

So, consider your message and its ‘meaning and receiving’: your understanding of the subject: what it’s about, its context and how it will be received by those who cannot give you instant feedback.


Audio recording script and show notes (c) 2021 Peter Stewart


Through these around-5-minute episodes, you can build your confidence and competence with advice on breathing and reading, inflection and projection, the roles played by better scripting and better sitting, mic techniques and voice care tips... with exercises and anecdotes from a career spent in TV and radio studios. If you're wondering about how to start a podcast, or have had one for a while - download every episode!


And as themes develop over the weeks (that is, they are not random topics day-by-day), this is a free, course to help you GET A BETTER BROADCAST, PODCAST AND VIDEO VOICE.


Look out for more details of the book during 2021.


Contacts: https://linktr.ee/Peter_Stewart


Peter has been around voice and audio all his working life and has trained hundreds of broadcasters in all styles of radio from pop music stations such as Capital FM and BBC Radio 1 to Heart FM, the classical music station BBC Radio 3 and regional BBC stations. He’s trained news presenters on regional TV, the BBC News Channel and on flagship programmes such as the BBC’s Panorama. Other trainees have been music presenters, breakfast show hosts, travel news presenters and voice-over artists.


He has written a number of books on audio and video presentation and production (“Essential Radio Journalism”, “JournoLists”, two editions of “Essential Radio Skills” and three editions of “Broadcast Journalism”) and has written on voice and presentation skills in the BBC’s in-house newspaper “Ariel”.


Peter has presented hundreds of radio shows (you may have heard him on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, Virgin Radio or Kiss, as well as BBC regional radio) with formats as diverse as music-presentation, interview shows, ‘special’ programmes for elections and budgets, live outside broadcasts and commentaries and even the occasional sports, gardening and dedication programmes. He has read several thousand news bulletins, and hosted nearly 2,000 podcast episodes, and is a vocal image consultant advising in all aspects of voice and speech training for presenters on radio and TV, podcasts and YouTube, voiceovers and videocalls.


The podcast title refers to those who may wish to change their speaking voice in some way. It is not a suggestion that anyone should, or be pressured into needing to. We love accents and dialects, and are well aware that how we speak changes over time. The key is: is your voice successfully communicating your message, so it is being understood (and potentially being acted upon) by your target audience?


This podcast is London-based and examples are spoken in the RP (Received Pronunciation) / standard-English / BBC English pronunciation, although invariably applicable to other languages, accents and dialects.


Music credits:

"Bleeping Demo" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/7012-bleeping-demo

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


"Beauty Flow" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5025-beauty-flow

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


"Envision" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4706-envision

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


"Limit 70" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5710-limit-70

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


"Rising Tide" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5027-rising-tide

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


"Wholesome" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5050-wholesome

License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license


[1] A good article on what makes news ‘news’. For example, why might one house fire, set of job losses, mauling by an out of control dog, be ‘more significant’ than another https://www.owenspencer-thomas.com/journalism/newsvalues/

[2] The BBC advice is that tone within a presentation can be stretched during a hugely emotional story or event, report or commentary, but “stay composed, calm and in control through calamity”.


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