23. The voicer

The voicer is a short script – 25 lines at most. It must last less than a minute. It's the script the journalist writes and reads in his own voice. It can be live or recorded. If you're on the field, you'll read it on the phone. Whichever the case, a voicer has a structure : a beginning, a middle and an end. A lead sentence and a punchy last line. It does not parrot what the anchor intro says. It answers two questions : Why ? and How ?

When to do a voicer ?

Two factors will lead you to treat a story with a voicer.

  • Having to. Your interlocutors refuse to be recorded, but they do agree to give you information. Or there’s no possible interviewee.
  • Wanting to : redactional choice. Sometimes it makes more sense to do a voicer. For example if you must analyze or explain a complex topic.

Different types of voicers.

There are two types of voicers :

  • The desk voicer. It’s written without going on the field. The journalist works in the news room, dealing with news that he gets from different sources. Most of the time he uses agency wires, newspaper clippings, scripts and various documents. He does some Internet researching and uses the phone to complete these informations.
  • The report voicer is the product of a report. To write it, the reporters goes to collect information on the field. He observes, takes notes, asks questions relevant to his story of interest.

Before writing a voicer.

  • Make sure that you miss no element, that you know what you’re talking about. Then, and sort out and organize what you’ve collected. Concentrate on the angle you have to work on, and put aside everything unrelated to it.
  • Put aside the information that will allow the anchor to introduce your voicer, and write your anchor intro.
  • Prepare the order in which you’re going to write your informations : it must be logical so as to facilitate understanding for the listeners. Choose wisely your lead sentence and your last line.

Write your voicer.

See 6 and 7. Whisper as you write so as to get the proper voice.

After you’ve written the voicer.

Format the voicer. Use a large police (and triple spacing). Note when you’ll have to pause. Use spaces. A properly formatted voicers is most probably going to be well read on air.

Don’t forget to put your voicer in your mouth.

Repeat it numerous times before going on air or recording it. Tell it read it out loud.

If your voicer is the result of a field report, read it while asking yourself : would I have written the same thing if I’d stayed in the newsroom ? If the answer is yes, write it again.