Writing for Radio

Headlines Exercise

As was suggested in the previous lesson, every news story, whether its radio, video or text-based, starts out with a presentation of the basic facts–the who, what, where, when, why and how of the story.  This is generally referred to as the lead or (particularly in radio, spelled lede).  Regardless of the format of a story—headlines, news wrap, news feature, even a call to action campaign video—news reporters need to know the lead to their story.  In this lesson, students will learn to write leads as they appear in the headlines of a news broadcast.


  • Students will learn the basics of writing for radio.
  • Students will learn how to operate an audio recorder.
  • Students will produce the  “headlines” for a typical radio newscast.

Materials Needed


Using the Washington Post and the Associated Press International, students should identify three to five stories that they believe should be in the headlines of a news broadcast.  They should then copy the “lead” for each of their chosen stories.  A newspaper lead is not written to be read out loud as is the copy written for radio.  For this reason, radio copy is simpler and more straightforward then newspaper copy.  Using the radio grammar guidelines, students should re-write their leads to be read as headlines at the top of a newscast.

As each student completes the assignment, they should make an audio recording of their headlines.  This will give the instructor an opportunity to go over the basic operations of the audio recorder as well as proper microphone placement with each student.

When the headlines are complete, play them back for the entire class.  Discuss why students chose the headlines that they chose.  Then consider other possible sources for stories that might be included in the headlines.  Other sources might be the Washington Peace Center’s activist calendar, events you hear about on list serves, or the activists and organizers that you know.

Finally,  go back to the campaigns and issues that the students identified as being of interest to them.  If they haven’t come up with a specific issue or event that they would like to cover, spend some time exploring potential topics.  If they do know what they want to cover, have them write up a potential lead for their story.   Knowing the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of a story is the first step in the pre-production of any audio segment that you plan to put together.  You’ll also need it if you plan to pitch your idea to a radio program producer.