Friday, December 30, 2005

A bit too predictable at the WSJ

Being predictable in the newspaper business is not necessarily a bad thing. Just ask any editor who's tried to get rid of a comic strip, a columnist or even a piece of what the newspaper industry calls "furniture" -- those ubiquitous little items, from upcoming events to (gulp) corrections, that are always in the same style and almost always in the same place.

Even a certain overall predictability in writing is not a bad thing. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, has a distinctive eponymous style: Start with hog farmer Smith, for instance, at work ... then broaden out to explain how Smith is one of those suffering from changes in pork-import rules ... go to some of the background ... work Smith and his fellow farmers and townsfolk back in and how they're worried about having to sell their farms and see the town die ... back to more policy stuff , etc. (When mapped out, it even has the serendipitous shape of a dollar sign.)

The difference between the Journal and others who try, of course, is that the Journal usually pulls it off with more flair and evocative writing.

But maybe things have gotten a bit too comfortable down on Liberty Street. I present for your consideration three ledes from Thursday's paper:

When entrepreneurs Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins started making a new hand-held gadget called the Palm Pilot in the early 1990s, they thought they had a winning business proposition. Venture capitalists disagreed.

When President Bush leaves office after eight years, the White House is expected to turn over more than 100 million emails to the National Archives ...

When Zalkha Ali turns on the television after dinner, the Londeon homemaker doesn't watch the news, a sitcom or a reality show. ...

These weren't scattered among the pages. They were piled one after another down the center of the Marketplace section front -- three of the five stories on the page.

When you're filling a column of your section-front Bingo card with lede after lede like this, perhaps it's time to suggest things have gotten too predictable and maybe it would be useful to step back and take another look.


At 1/2/06, 4:46 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Don't forget the "To be sure ..." graf, in which the writer admits that maybe the preceding grafs are full of shit.

At 1/2/06, 5:03 PM, Blogger Doug said...

A well-taken point, to be sure.


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