Using clips

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(contributed by Suanne Kelman, Ryerson University School of Journalism)

You may think you don’t know what a clip is, but actually – you do! Think about when you’re watching TV news or listening to a report on the radio. Sometimes a new voice appears – like magic – and says something. That is a clip.

You can use single clips from a person who is involved in the story, or from an expert.

I don’t know why, but many people go to pieces when confronted with a clip. They write things like: “Dorothy Blogs explains” or “Mortimer Web says.”

You don’t want to do that.

Audiences don’t like to feel confused or ignorant. So, most of the time you should let the audience know who is speaking and why they’re speaking before the clip begins, unless it’s a very short clip and we’ll hear more from the speaker later.

You want to use that information to slide into the clip instead of announcing it with trumpets.

So you can write, “Dorothy Blogs is a public health nurse who deals with avian flu cases every day.”

If you feel it will help, you can signal what Dorothy is going to say with a second sentence. Something like: “She’s worried that people aren’t taking the threat seriously.”

But you won’t write that if her first sentence is: “I’m worried that people aren’t taking avian flu seriously.”

You don’t need to write what’s already in the clip; that’s what the clip is for. You don’t need to repeat it after the clip runs. You use your script to provide additional information.

That information will often be an identification of the speaker; sometimes it will identify the opinion in the clip. “Mortimer Web is a consultant on Information Technology – and he feels Canadians spend far too much for texting on their cell phones.”

The clip should fit in smoothly. I realize that some of you may find that a bit phony – we don’t normally speak with someone else breaking in and then disappearing.

But that’s how things work in the magic world of radio.

For now, concentrate on making the script sound natural, of introducing the speakers in your clips with information that explains why they have been chosen to talk on this subject, and of getting on with the rest of your program when it’s over.