Writing News with Vic Ratner
Vic Ratner has the voice for radio and he knows how to use it. For over 50 years he trumpeted through the radio with urgency and authority; slipping, sliding, dancing through each story. It’s as if he was a jazz musician and the news was his muse. And boy could he jam. Sometimes it was just a word or a pause. An unexpected note. You never knew where Vic was taking you, but you felt safe enough to sit back and let him guide way.
But, to say Vic Ratner is a “voice” is to miss the essence of his success. In his soul he’s a writer; even a poet. His descriptions guide his voice and force listeners to see what he’s saying. He takes you there, wherever he is. How does he do that?
“An early boss told me, “When you go out the front door of your house everyday look around you and describe, as if it were for a radio audience, what you see.” And I think that’s like time spent in a gym building up muscles.
In an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast, he talked about how that piece of advice served him well during his 40 years at ABC Radio.
“When an emergency happens, the lessons you’ve learned over time in describing things for people on the other side of the radio – just kind of kick in.”
For Ratner, colorfully describing his world has become ingrained in everything he does. He’s written with such clarity for so long that now the words roll off his tongue in regular conversation. For instance, when he shared with us his experiences on the day Challenger exploded.
“You know every reporter has times when you don’t believe what your eyes see. When I woke up that morning, I went out to my rented car. There was ice on the windshield. And I told my producers in New York, “They’re not going to launch today. You don’t launch when it’s this cold.” We had been taught by the engineers that you don’t launch in sub-freezing weather. And we now know that NASA’s – some of NASA’s engineers – pleaded with the space agency the night before, “It’s too cold!” They said, “Don’t launch.” They were overruled by the administration and it’s the tragedy that followed. And when the shuttle system came apart you heard a pause in my voice — you could not believe what was happening in front of your eyes.”
For those hoping to walk in the footsteps of Vic Ratner, he does offer this advice.
“Go for it! Do it! Any place you go, any place you wind up do as many different things in as many different places as you can.”