News Mistakes Media Pros Should Never Make

10 Dumb TV News Mistakes That Annoy Viewers

Female newscaster getting primped
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People who watch TV news want to connect with the people they see, so that they build comfort and trust with the anchors and reporters on a particular network or station. But these 10 news mistakes media pros should never make often prevent viewers from forming that long-lasting bond.

1. Not Knowing the Viewing Area

A TV news anchor may profess a love for her community in a station's on-air promotion campaign, but that effort is shattered when it becomes clear that she lacks basic knowledge of the area.

One example is mispronouncing the names of cities and towns that viewers readily know. Anyone working in TV in Kentucky should know how locals say "Louisville". The same is true for the way people in Louisiana say "New Orleans". From Yakima, Washington, to Kissimmee, Florida, every state has words that can expose news anchors' ignorance if they don't take the time to prepare before airtime.

2. Asking "How Do You Feel?"

A news reporter arrives at a tornado-damaged neighborhood to do a live shot for the 6 o'clock news. During the live report, the reporter asks a man who just lost his home and family in the storm, "How do you feel?"

The storm victim looks stunned, then tries to piece together an answer. Most viewers witnessing this reporter's inane questioning probably wished the man would say, "How do you think I feel, you moron," before walking off on live television.

Clearly, the reporter was trying to pull the emotional heartstrings of the story.

But there are better, more thoughtful and caring ways to do it.

3. Sensationalizing the News

Critics say TV news is sensationalized. Unfortunately for those of us who work in media, often the critics are correct.

Look for sensationalized news coverage at your station. If you see that some stories were exaggerated as a way to grab attention, then you are misleading your audience.

The same is true for the topical promotion for your newscast. Yes, you have to sell your stories to get people to watch. But if you constantly call a routine house fire "the worst disaster the city has ever faced", viewers will catch on to how you're crying wolf about common occurrences.

4. Writing Confusing Stories

Writing confusing news stories usually happens because of carelessness, not callousness. But the results can damage your media brand.

Take a typical :30 story about someone getting sentenced for murder. If you fail to take the time to tell your audience who the person killed, when, and where, you are failing as a news writer. That typically takes just a few minutes of researching your archived scripts so that you can deliver a complete story.

Broadcast news writing tips usually include ways to write shorter news stories. Brevity is important, but so is clarity. If you leave your viewers confused, they'll leave you for a station with stories that are easier to understand.

5. Promoting Instead of Informing

The tools and tricks of media advertising have filtered their way into most newsrooms. In a sea of competition, it is important to advertise your media brand as a way to stand out.

But promotion can easily get in the way of information. In the middle of a severe weather situation, be careful not to interrupt potentially lifesaving information in order to put in a plug for people to download your weather app. Remember, there is a time and place for on-air promotion during a newscast. An emergency is not the time to put on your salesman's hat.

6. Trying Too Hard to Be a Personality

Many on-air news anchors crave recognition. They want viewers to come up to them in the grocery store to say "you're my favorite person on the news". To get that praise, many anchors and reporters try too hard to be a larger-than-life TV personality.

It's okay to let viewers know you have two dachshunds at home whom you love dearly. It's another to try to turn every on-air conversation into something about your beloved hounds. Yes, there are a lot of dog lovers out there, but when your motivation becomes so forced that you want to be known as your city's number-one pet advocate, it seems insincere and gets in the way of your real job, which is to present the news.

7. Pretending to Be an Investigator

Speaking of TV personalities, Mike Wallace became one of the 10 TV legends through his investigative reporting on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes. That fame has lured many other TV news people into attempting investigative reporting.

Real investigative reporting techniques include making a commitment to taking the time to dig for a story. Many wanna-be investigative reporters aren't willing to be that patient. Instead, they'll do a story on an ordinary topic, like the hot toys for Christmas, and slap on an introduction that says, "we investigate this year's hottest toys" so that it sounds more impressive. Viewers aren't that gullible. Make an investigation mean something.

8. Failing to Help People in the Community

Every station preaches community involvement as being important. Yet there are countless anchors who may be willing to show up for a community project when the cameras are there, but disappear when there's actual work to do.

Don't be one of these people. Organizers of a charity walk to fight cancer care deeply about their cause. Imagine how they would feel like they're being used if you're an anchor who showed up briefly to get your publicity photo taken for the newspaper, then went to play golf instead of doing your duty to walk.

You might fool your bosses into thinking that you participated. But those organizers know the truth, and they won't hesitate telling others about your shallowness and lack of caring.

9. Posting "All About Me" Updates on Facebook

Use Facebook to build your brand, both on a newsroom and personal level. Be careful not to overestimate how much your Facebook fans really crave every detail about your personal life.

Posting endless photos of yourself at some expensive beach resort may feed your ego, but it can be a turnoff to your fans. Undoubtedly, some of them can't afford your luxury vacation and don't need that fact thrown in their faces. A better way to grow your Facebook fan page is to interact with your fans about topics that interest them.

10. Tweeting Useless Information

Twitter may have been designed for frequent short updates, but that doesn't mean viewers want to see their Twitter feeds clogged with useless information from you. "I'm sitting in a city council meeting that's gone on for two hours. #bored #Iwanttogohome #takemetomargaritaville" would be an example.

After all, you're getting paid to be in the meeting, and you're supposed to be there on behalf of the viewers who don't care that you're bored and thirsty. There are all kinds of ways media pros can use Twitter. Inflicting your audience with pointless tweets shouldn't be one of them.