Wednesday, March 31, 2010

683 Talk To Your Newspaper

683 Talk To Your Newspaper

Be your own editor. You'll soon have to be. Good editors aren't extinct. Yet. but the herd is thinning. There are some notable exceptions, but mostly, The Desk is asleep or ailing or dead. Let's start with the notable exceptions. The Daily Beast website summarizes its main stories so they read like NBC Nightly News "tells," items with facts neatly summarized and wrapped in alluring decoration. You can click on the story, but you get plenty from Beast's condensation.

Then, there's the CNN website that often gives you decent bullet point main topics before the body of the story. And there's Scientific American Magazine which puts "Key Facts" on a list. Kind of previews the articles.

But sloppy copy has become the hallmark of most newspapers, magazines and often the wire services.

Let's look at the wires, first. A full length item is written in a certain way for reasons having nothing to do with reporting. The thing's designed so the receiving paper can cut paragraphs from the bottom so it fits the available space. The most important information is at the top of the story. Or at least it used to be. Many wire service stories now save important facts for last. So if someone has to cut paragraphs for space, where does he start?

The papers themselves often leave out names or parts of names on first reference. So when you get to the middle of a story and a sentences starts "Smith said Jones was to blame..." and you don't know who Smith is, you go back over the whole piece, hunting for the first mention of "Smith" and you don't find it because its not there.

You can be your own editor. Ask questions as you read. Ask the story whatever comes to mind. Something surely will these days, because there are holes in practically everything.

If the info you want simply isn't there, there's not much you can do. But if it is, you may find it by talking to your newspaper.



Shrapnel:

--You may have noticed Ronald Reagan on the current ads for General Electric -- marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. Have you also noticed that all of the sound clips come from public domain speeches Reagan made as governor and President? They aren't using actual sound from his radio and TV commercials and maybe that's because if they did ... they'd have to pay his estate ... and pay it via his union.

--Not only can they not make a pair of glasses that stays clean for more than ten minutes, they can't seem to make a vegetable peeler that peels vegetables cleanly and without cutting the cutter more deeply than skinning the plant. Rachel Ray doesn't peel celery stalks, so maybe we shouldn't, either. Maybe the outer layer is good for you. Or maybe she can't use those peelers either and doesn't want her audience to know.

--Coming attraction: "Home Team" a book about the New Orleans Saints return to real life. It's by coach Sean Payton and Ellis Henican and will be out in July. And it's worth reading even if you don't care either about football or New Orleans.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



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