Gathering information and writing stories is only part of producing a good solid newscast.
How you “stack” the show plays a critical role as well.
First question: What is “stacking” a show? Simply put, stacking a show is determining what order stories will be aired.
Second question: Why is this important to a newscast? Anytime a newscast airs you are dealing with finite resources. Time is you’re most important and limited resource of all. A newscast has a predetermined amount of time available. Viewers have limited time with busy lives cutting into their viewing habits. Stacking a show becomes very important.
Viewers do not want their time wasted. Producers need to evaluate their news stories and decide what impacts their viewers the most. What do the viewers need to know now? Why do they need to know this now? How much time do you have to present the newscast? Events with a direct impact to viewers should always be considered a high priority versus something happening hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Local newscasts should always focus on the local events impacting viewers directly first. National news with local ties is equally important. Remember, national stories with a wide impact (everyone in the country) should and can be highly placed in a newscast as well.
An additional consideration when stacking your show is blending content together. If your lead story is a local wildfire a producer could consider placing another fire story right after it even if it’s not local. This allows the producer to keep similar content together.
News stories involving sports or light hearted events typically get placed lower in a shows lineup. Since these stories are less important (not always) a producer can drop them in a pinch to help end a newscast on time. Fun or happier events allow the anchors to end a show on an up note instead of “serious” stories.
There will always be more content available than time. Remember to consider your viewing audience and what they need to know now. Prioritize that information with consideration to flow and cap your show with something light hearted or fun. A good job stacking stories will make your newscast a winner every time!
Alex McBurney is a Director and Producer at KIRO-TV in Seattle, WA. He specializes in directing live television programmin indlucing news, entertainment, sports, and talk shows. McBurney is the Technical Chair of the TV Broadcast News competition for SkillsUSA.