We're not just handed everything we read on air (#2 in 'Things you didn't know about local public radio hosts')

#2 in a four-part series on things you didn’t know about local public radio hosts

We’re not just ‘handed’ everything we read on air


A great deal of what we say on air is written by someone else. A great deal is not. Example: the ads we read (we call this "underwriting"…there is a lot of lingo in public radio) are written by our sales/underwriting departments. But when I give the weather, I'm writing that myself, based off of public information from the National Weather Service. Or when I'm giving a traffic update, I will write that based on what I'm seeing on the traffic cameras. (I'll ad-lib if time is limited, but I like to write things out.)

And when there is news that breaks overnight, the first responder for the public radio newsroom is the Morning Edition host. We may not have the time to get all the details right away, when the strict time constraints of hosting are pressing upon us, but during the short segments of time when we’re not on air, we will make calls, shoot emails, check facts, and write copy to get the story out, before most people have even started their day.

There is also a great deal of editing that goes on. Yes, most of the stories I read on air are written by another reporter, but for the parts that I read (a host intro to set up a story voiced by a reporter, or a story read only be the host), I will go through that beforehand and make any necessary changes to correct typos that might otherwise trip me up, or to word something in a slightly different way to make things more conversational. Hosts are the goalies of public radio. We are the last line of defense when it comes to fact-checking, name pronunciation, and flow before a story hits the airwaves.

There is even more editing going on when I get a news story off of the AP wire service. Most public radio stations—like most news organizations in general—pay to use the AP's reporting. I don't use AP reporting a whole ton, but when I do, I always rewrite the copy to make it radio-friendly. AP reporting is written to be read (Associated Press), not heard. So, I need to make the sentences shorter, simpler, and more conversational.

There are some words that show up in AP copy that I will never say on air, because these are words that people don't ever actually say in person. "Mull" is one that comes to mind right now:

“Lawmakers are mulling legislation that…”

"Considering" will do just fine. Here's another one: "aim". Yes, aim is a word that people do use IRL, but not the way the AP uses it:

“The mayor aims to reduce gun violence by…”

What is wrong with "wants" or "hopes"? Nothing!