Using a Prompter

When you go on the air for a thirty- or sixty-minute newscast, you'll have a complete script, but expect it to be revised during the broadcast.

Runners will bring new copy to you, the camera director, the news producer, and the prompter operator. Instructions to toss to a reporter in the field or in the newsroom will be given to you by a director or producer over an IFB, also called an earprompter. You'll also receive instructions passed to you by the floor manager (sometimes called the floor director or stage manager) during commercial breaks, reports from the field, or recorded stories.

Skill in sight-reading is extremely important. You won't be able to study stories written and delivered after the start of the newscast. You may have a chance to skim the new copy for names of people, places, or things that you may have trouble pronouncing, but there's no guarantee that anyone in the studio or control room will be able to help you with the pronunciation. For this reason, you should establish an understanding with newswriters, assignment editors, and associate producers that unusual words or names will be phoneticized on the copy that goes to you and the prompter. An example of how your script may read follows:

The East African nation of Djibouti (jee-BOOT-ee) has been hit by a severe plague of locusts.

In this instance, the newswriter took the phoneticized spelling from the pronouncer included in the wire-service copy. Pronouncer is the term used by news services for the phonetic transcriptions of words and names that accompany wire-service stories. Another example required the newswriter to research the pronunciation of medical terms:

(Washington) A dietary supplement that may cause a fatal blood disorder has been removed

from sale by its manufacturer. L-Tryptophan (el-TRIP-toe-fan) has been linked to the potentially

fatal blood disease eosinophilia (EE-uh-sin-uhFEEL-ee-yuh). A national consumer organization

praised the manufacturer's decision, and called the halt in sales, quote: "a prudent and cautious course of action."


If you type your own script, make certain that each sentence is indented four or five spaces. In the event the prompter fails, this will help you quickly spot the part of the story you're reading. As you read from the prompter, slowly move a thumb down the side of your hand-held script. With practice, you'll eventually become quite precise in keeping your thumb positioned at the point of the story as you read it from the prompter.

Never hyphenate a word at the end of a typewritten line in a script. You must be able to see entire words without having to shift your eyes back to the beginning of a new line for the conclusion of a word. If, for example, a line ended with con-, you'd have no way of knowing whether the rest of the word was -tingent, -tinuous, or -vict.

When working with a prompter, the camera usually will be ten to fifteen feet in front of you. Eye movement as you scan the projected script will be less noticeable at that distance. Glance down at your script frequently. This habit not only eliminates the staring look but keeps you in touch with the ongoing script—a necessity in case the prompter fails.


Ed. Note: Read more on using a teleprompter and other related articles in the new edition of The Morning News, available online now.