14. The headlines

There is no need for headlines in a newsflash (see 17) because it's a series of short news lasting between 2 and 3 minutes. However, headlines are needed for a 10 to 15 minutes bulletin. They announce the major news so as to catch the listener's ear and make him want to keep listening. “Hey, wonder what's new today?”. 


The headlines are the major news that will be discussed in the bulletin. The anchor chooses to put the spotlight on them by putting them at the beginning of the newscast.

What are headlines used for ?

If your bulletin were a shop in which you were the seller, the headlines would be the window. The headlines are what the listener will hear first and they’ll be a deal breaker in convincing him to keep listening. They can be compared to the first sentence of an anchor intro or a copy. They give the most important news and catch the listener’s ear.

Which news should you choose for the headlines ?

The three or four major news items in the bulletin : the lead item and the two or three capital pieces of news of the day. You may also want to put the spotlight on some news that are not the freshest, if they are intriguing : the closing story (tail-ender), if it’s humorous, for example.

How to write the headlines ?

Headlines should consist in one or two sentences at most – it’s a matter of rhythm. The first sentence will peak the listener’s interest by giving the actual news. The second one sells the angle.

How many headlines are needed ?

You need at least three headlines, else the bulletin will seem to be “poor”. At most you can have five headlines, because you need to choose which news to highlight. Please refrain from simply listing every single news item.


The headlines last a variable amount of time depending on the bulletin. For a classic bulletin, lasting between ten and fifteen minutes, the headlines should last around 40 seconds.

When to write the headlines ?

Most of the time the anchor writes his headlines last. In a newscast, you need to be ready to add some last minute news. If it’s major news, you will have to put it in the headlines. Better then to redact the headlines half an hour before going on air.

How to make the headlines peak the listener’s interest?

You need to choose AND write them well. Packaging also plays a great part. You will have to put a jingle before the headlines and a stab after them. The headlines can be underlined by a shunted musical loop that will give rhythm and intensity. Make sure the anchor”s voice can still be perfectly heard and understood.