The Radio Production Series – Foo To Traffic Reports!

Traffic and travel reports sound so easy don’t they? You hear lots of people saying “I could do that….” but have you ever thought about the art of reading or even writing a travel bulletin? When people ask me about going out and getting on air experience as a presenter or jock, I sometimes point them to traffic and travel bulletin reading as a starting point. It’s not an area which most people think about when being on air, but it’s a great place to begin because it helps to focus the mind on unpacking and delivering short pieces of information.

Some radio stations don’t really engage with their traffic reports all that well and it can almost feel like that the interruption (albeit a useful one) is just an annoyance – and if that’s how you’re feeling as a broadcaster, then you can probably assume that’s how the audience feel about it too.

There’s an art to doing traffic and travel readings. If you ever heard Sally Traffic on BBC Radio 2 – she took them in her stride, relaying sometimes minutes upon minutes of national upset on the roads to millions in an easy and fathomable format. There was always some light banter and chat with the presenter on air before getting into the read itself, followed by easy to understand notes and pointers about what was going on around the UK’s roads, and what was brilliant is you’d keep listening even if it wasn’t for you because Sally read with such grace.

Take a watch of Dave Grohl, front man of Foo Fighters, reading the travel news on Absolute Radio. I love Dave and Absolute radio dearly and in this example it really is just a bit of fun….

Dave has clearly never read the traffic news before, but I’d watch him read the travel all day long. #LoveDave. *Ahem* Anyway…. What’s interesting about that report is that there’s lots of junctions and motorway names which if you’ve never navigated a car before make no sense.

On a national level it can be deemed quite difficult to make traffic news take off and shine, but first lets take it down to a local level to show how you can really add some colour in what you’re saying. The build up of cars in a town centre can be more easily described locally when you add in some landmarks or descriptions that people are more likely to recognise rather than just listing a bunch of road numbers or junctions:

“There’s some heavy traffic near the vet’s on The Street in the centre of the town, that’s because of a broken down car….”

“There’s a diversion in place just past the McDonalds on the High Street as you’re heading away from the town centre…”

“If you’re travelling in to watch the football this afternoon, try to avoid heading towards the town on the circular road as it’s already quite busy with people trying to get to the match….”

You can’t obviously replicate the above examples as easily on a national level when reading traffic and travel reports, namely because it would only be a select few that the ‘heavy traffic near the vets’ would apply, but we can take the idea of landmarks and apply them – a great example is The Angel Of The North when talking about incidents on the A1 motorway in the UK; it’s easy to picture as most people have heard of it, but what you do then is talk about how close the incident is to that landmark in and in which direction. This works because instantly the listener has been given an image in their mind, the Angel Of The North in this case, and can then determine whether it’s likely to affect them, and it’s that imagery – regardless of if you are doing a bulletin for the UK or your local radio station – which is what will help connect the audience with what you’re saying.

So if you’re looking still to get into radio, give reading the traffic news a try as an entry point. The skills you acquire here in being able to deliver short bursts of relevant information will help you harness the power of getting from A to B in a story, which in turn will set you up for whatever your broadcasting future looks like.

Finally, it would be rude not to have an example of Sally Traffic in this piece, so here she is having a laugh with Michael Ball on BBC Radio 2 while trying to deliver the travel report….!

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