Identify Your Audience & Define Your Objectives

Identify Your Audience: Who is your audio segment meant to reach?   Narrow this down from the general radio audience of WPFW, or whatever news outlet you may be pitching.  Are you trying to reach an audience of your peers, activists, elected officials, parents, business people, low-income residents, etc.  Once you’ve named your audience, think about how you want that audience to react to your audio segment. What is the new information that your audience will learn listening to your piece?  What conclusion(s) do you want them to draw?  Even more specifically, what positions do you want you’re audience to adopt and what action do you want them to take as a result?  In other words, what objectives do you want to achieve as a result of your audio segment?

Define Your Objectives: Having an objective does not mean that you yourself are not objective.  Although, I contend that objectivity is not really an achievable goal nor should it be; no piece of media is produced without one.  The objective of a commercial is to convince consumers to buy a particular product.  The objective of a movie is to entertain.  The objective of the press is to inform the citizenry, without which a democracy or republic, as the case may be, will not function at its best.  Part of your job as a reporter or journalist is to uncover facts, which you will use to inform your fellow citizens and residents.  But simply listing those facts without putting them in context can be problematic.  Facts can be interpreted or misinterpreted in many ways.  Take this tidbit as an example:

Despite an overall increase in the number of available jobs in the District of Columbia in 2010, the unemployment rate in Ward 8 climbed to thirty percent while in Ward 3 the rate dropped to three percent.

How do those facts characterize the residents of Ward 8?  Will they lead your audience to conclude that employment opportunities are not reaching them or that they are not taking advantage of the opportunities in front of them?  In fact, there is not enough information for your audience to legitimately come to either conclusion without relying on preconceived notions of their own.

To keep from reinforcing stereotypes of the majority black (not to mention low-income) residents of Ward 8, you might include a series of facts like: What kind of jobs increased in Washington, DC and what kinds of skills do they require?  What is the average educational level of the Ward 8 resident in comparison to the Ward 3 resident?  In an effort to avoid any misinterpretation, your analysis might call into question where and how residents were raised?  Before you know it, you’ve avoided one kind of misinterpretation only to find that you’re heading down a road that reinforces yet another set of stereotypes.

Don’t tell yourself that you can lay out a series of facts and that it’s up to your audience to figure out what they mean.   Draw your conclusion, present the facts that support and refute your theory and allow your audience to decide whether or not you’ve made your case.  You may end up revealing your bias, but that won’t stop you from being fair, balanced and accurate.

Once you’ve defined your objectives, you’ll be better able to state your premise and structure your story, which is the next lesson in this tutorial.