Friday, 4 March 2011

Journalism 101: Your readers are the toughest sub editors ever

As a journalist, you should never underestimate the smartness, recall and grammatical abilities of your reader.
When the subject matter is a niche interest that warning goes double, as the Guardian discovered (*links to the two articles are at the foot of this post):



and, just to compound the fun, someone else spotted this:





Whatever your profession, you can't be an expert in everything (as a journalist some knowledge,  an enquiring mind and a willingness to bother those with the expertise is probably what many of us would admit to).
But you can be either a) more honest or b) more devious when it comes to recyling: You can link to your sources, or at least reference them in articles, and make transparency and pathways a virtue; or you can be devious and change the words so it reads differently. At the very least you will have made some effort.

But a word of warning on the last choice - I know of a few instances when articles had to be purged from electronic archieves because one elderly (and subsequently corrected) error kept being repeated. This was, of course, because journos working on the on-going story - maybe years later - were cutting and pasting bits of the original.


Incidentally, one of the best things about writing this (not-very-illuminating) blog post was that Zemanta threw me a fantastic website as a link option.
It's called 43things.com and is a space for people to list their life goals. The link in question was 'Quote Roy Batty's dying speech at most social functions or awkward moments at least once". (Yes, that's their life goal: Not 'be a good parent' or 'scuba dive on the Barrier Reef'; just to shoehorn a quote from a character from a 1980s movie into an inappropriate scenario.)
So there's a list of people explaining how they movingly incorporated "C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate" into a eulogy.
As one respondent who managed to achieve that particular life goal pointed out: "AWESOME SAUCE!"

*The link to the Guardian article is below, with the rest of Zemanta's suggestions, if you want to read the full story of how remaking/reimagining/making a prequel to Blade Runner has caused such consternation. The link to the Guardian article refered to in the comment is http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2004/aug/26/sciencenews.sciencefictionspecial


Character Rick Deckard has a hard time resisti...Image via Wikipedia
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