23 February 2018

The Radio News Story

Executive Summary

Radio is a quick medium that is highly up to date and uses short news stories to inform listeners about events, whether a political, social, sporting or business event. News stories on water are equally linked to events, that can reach from droughts over political decisions to social incidents, like water-related disputes. News stories inform with short and objective reports. The following paragraphs explain how news should be presented on the radio.


Factsheet Block Body

A radio news story is a short, accurate, factual report about an event, whether a political, social, sporting, or business event.

A radio news story’s main function is to inform.

A radio news story does not contain an opinion or commentary.

A radio news story can be simply read by a news reader or it can include audio clips, such as statements from interviewees or reporters; it can also include recordings of activities made at the site of the news incident.

How is a radio news story constructed?

Factsheet Block Body

A standard radio news story is made up of around five sentences and is around 20 to 25 seconds long.

A radio news story is similar to all other forms of news media, in that the most important information comes first.

Following the most important and current information come sources, background information, and other developments - these proceed from most important to least important. The least important information comes at the end.

What information is included in a radio news story?

Factsheet Block Body

A complete news story contains answers to the five ‘W’s and one ‘H’:

  • WHAT?
  • WHO?
  • WHERE?
  • WHEN?
  • WHY?
  • HOW?

Not all of the answers may be available from the same place, at the same time. But if the first four Ws cannot be answered, then the news story is incomplete.

What is the language of a radio news story like?

Factsheet Block Body

Short and simple sentences.

Objective and brief.

Avoids opinion and comment.

Avoids too many figures, measurements, dates, or other numbers.

Avoids technical or specialist terms, or uses them sparingly.

Avoids copying directly from news agency reports, as often the language used by agencies is not suitable for broadcast news.

How is a radio news story presented?

Factsheet Block Body

On some radio stations, the news is presented by specially trained news readers who are not necessarily journalists.

The news item uses neutral language and is presented in a calm and slow manner. It is important that the news reader’s own opinions are not hinted at by the way the newsreader speaks while presenting the news item.

The news item is more important than the presenter. This is important especially when it comes to reporting on disasters like floods or other news items that evoke sympathy; the presenter shouldn’t show emotion.


Factsheet Block Body
  • Is the news up-to-date and relevant?
  • Is the latest, most important news to be found within the first lines?
  • Is the news reliable and well researched? Have the facts been checked?
  • Has the news item been written and presented in a neutral way?
  • Is the news item short?
  • Is the news item being presented in the right context, within the wider radio broadcast? 
Library References

Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting

When basic questions about journalism come up, this handbook, written and produced by Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT), provides clear, brief and precise answers. Shortcuts to Journalism isn’t just for journalists – it’s also helpful for non-journalists. Download the English version here or the Arabic version here.

Schmidt, E., Tirok, M. and Bösch, M. (2016): Shortcuts to Journalism: The Basics of Print, Online and Broadcast Reporting. Berlin, Germany: Media in Cooperation and Transition gGmbH PDF

Alternative Versions to