The Newsroom: Translating the Jargon

Posted on June 30, 2014

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This is the second installment from Shawn Patrick Floss. Shawn has anchored the local news in Milwaukee, Denver, and Shreveport. He recently relocated to Portland, Oregon and currently, is the media communications manager for Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

Background Check

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Shawn Patrick Floss, a suburban Chicago native, has 15 years of communications experience. He has worked at FOX6 in Milwaukee, WI, KUSA-TV in Denver, CO, Shreveport, LA and Bowling Green, KY. Currently, he is the Media Communications Manager for the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance where he increased brand awareness by securing story placement with several media outlets, including a six minute live morning talk show segment. Shawn is a graduate of the University of Missouri.

The Foreign Language of a Newsroom

willmcavoyShawn Patrick Floss

June 30, 2014

Research has long shown the typical TV viewer has the attention span of a gnat. In the mornings, we’re getting ready for work or preparing the kids for school. Now thanks to smart phones and tablets, hardly anybody is paying attention to what someone is saying on TV let alone what their spouse is discussing on the couch right next to them.

The people running newsrooms know they’re not just competing with another station, but with all of the distractions in your family room. This is why stories are so short. You blink, and you’ll miss it.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of a newscast flow chart, known as a “rundown,” with a few terms than can help you better understand what’s driving a newsroom decision.

1(Under the column “Format”, you see the acronyms used for stories)

Voice Over (VO)

tumblr_mkfprrwCFD1qf3vv5o1_250Usually you’ll see 20 or 30 seconds of video on the screen while the anchor reads copy of a story. It’s the most common element in a newscast. It could be a brief story out of Capitol Hill, gas prices going up, or lightning from a storm. It’s not a lot of time, but you get the basic info and move on.

Sound On Tape (SOT)


More commonly referred to as a soundbite. Ever since cable news turned our society into a 24-hour news culture, a short soundbite can make or break someone, not just politicians. If a reporter or photographer wants to interview you, be prepared to see no more than 10 seconds of your talk on air. Of course, not all interviews are for “60 Minutes” but good interview preparation is important to make sure you don’t forget your talking points and stay on message. Find your focus, because you don’t have a minute, only seconds.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you become. Interviewing is not fun for many people. It’s not something we do every day. (Just ask anyone looking for a job).  I would recommend you don’t practice your first ever media interview when it’s time to talk to a reporter in front of a camera.

The Package


The “package” is the longest running form of a report in a newscast, an average of a whopping 70 or 80 seconds long. That’s all of the time a reporter has to weave through information and soundbites, while making sure the video is relevant and entertaining. Keep in mind, in a half hour newscast, less than 10 minutes are actually dedicated to news, when you take away time for weather, sports, and all of the commercials. Now you know why your five-minute interview earlier in the day turned into seven seconds under deadline.

Supplemental Reading


The Newsroom with Shawn Patrick Floss

Anchorman Shawn Patrick Dishes on Denver, Ditka and Drew

Managing Television News: A Handbook for Ethical and Effective Producing

Shawn Patrick’s Reason for Joining WOCA

Comedy For A Cause – WaukeshaNOW

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