There is sometimes a fine line between the broadcast feature, commentary and editorial. The feature, as you have seen, is defined by broadcast news people as being on the lighter, or softer, side of the news. Editorials, will show, are position statements of station management.
They can also be light, or they can be hard-hitting, but the news department is usually in full control of their content. Broadcast commentaries fall somewhere in between features and editorials. These commentaries are about the thing broadcasting has to political columns appearing in the newspaper.
Except on election nights, commentaries on local radio and TV stations are not that common. Local stations generally subscribe to a national syndicated commentator.
These national commentators have some of the attributes of newspaper columnists. Their broadcasts are aired at the same time each day 80 listeners and viewers can tune in; they write in any manner they choose, or 80 it seems, on a wide variety of issues. The Fairness Doctrine requires that broadcast commentary be labeled as being just that.
In TV the word “COMMENTARY” is often superposed on the screen and in radio the lead-in to the tape of the commentator states that what you are about to hear is commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of the station.
Commentators may be totally objective in their presentations, but stations are still careful to make sure the audience can tell the commentary from the news.
1. Columns are highly personal statements that appear at regular intervals and generally in the same place.
2. Columns have a rather constant readership, offer more variety of subject matter than is found in straight news and are more flexible in style and format than straight news or features.
3. Columns don’t require the same kind of experience or background knowledge as do editorials or features. Some columns are based totally on personal experiences and impressions. The subject matter for columns is limited only by the writer’s imagination.
4. Syndicates are a major source for columns that appear in the print media, though a local writer can also place columns with newspaper editors. Some general principles of style for column writing are:
1. Put an unusual twist on the ordinary.
2. Inject humor into the writing.
3. Explore private musings, concerns and ideas.
4. Be personal. Talk to the reader, not at him.
5. Be creative, experiment with the use of words and language patterns.
6. Draw on the qualities of drama and fiction writing.
7. Use exact words.
8. Always keep the reader in mind. The reader will pass final judgment on whether your column is worthwhile.
* Some typical formats for columns are the Q&A the grab bag the anecdote; the feature; the instructive and the informative.
* Broadcast commentaries usually’ deal more with news analysis than anything else.