Keep It Simple

This is a Training Zone post. For the main blog click here

One of the biggest steps you’ll take from a training course to a real newsroom is coping with the sheer amount of information that’s thrown at you. But the real art is knowing how to turn that information into informative and entertaining radio.

Don't let information overload get in the way of good radio


The first tip I always give people is “Keep it simple”. There’s no substitute for explaining a complex bit of information in a concise, easy to understand format.

Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks comes during elections – or any sort of vote. Next month’s referendum on voting reform is fraught with issues of political balance and fairness, whilst at the same time allowing the listener to make up their own mind.

So it was great to hear this morning’s show on BBC Radio Nottingham* in which Sarah Julian and her team explained the system of Alternative Voting, and what the outcome of a new system might be.

So how would you have done it?

You could : 

  • Hold a round table debate, featuring interviews with those for and against AV
  • Feature existing local politicians, and grill the one who got the least percentage of votes at the last election
  • Hold an online poll to get a snapshot of whether people support the proposed changes

Or you could hold a Lovely Baby Competition.

Seriously, this was keeping it simple at its best. A group of local school pupils voted on photographs of BBC Radio Nottingham presenters when they were babies, using the existing voting system and then AV. A great example of explaining highly complex issues in a simple way. The results – and the reasons behind those results – were then read out and debated.


Some might argue that there’s a risk with the above example of “talking down” to the audience. After all, they’re grown adults – surely they can grasp the notion of a transferable vote? Well maybe so. But the fact is that in many elections around a third of those eligible to vote don’t turn out.

That’s why keeping it simple is so important. Engaging your audience and grabbing their attention doesn’t just help your ratings, its helps your station’s reputation.

Another fantastic example of this – day in day out – is Radio 1’s Newsbeat bulletins and programmes. If you ever need to work out the important stuff on a big issue – be it Libya or the Burkha ban in France – the half hourly Newsbeat summary will tell you what you need to know.

There’s more on how to write great radio cues at the BBC College of Journalism website.

* This audio will only be available for one week from the date of this post. Audio © BBC Radio Nottingham 2011.

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