Thursday, January 20, 2011

25 commandments for journos

This column by The Guardian's Tim Radford will become mandatory reading in my classes.

Among my favorites of his 25:

5. Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. "No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand."
6. And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says "Nobody has to read this crap."
7. If in doubt, assume the reader knows nothing. However, never make the mistake of assuming that the reader is stupid. The classic error in journalism is to overestimate what the reader knows and underestimate the reader's intelligence. ...

10. So here is a rule. A story will only ever say one big thing. If (for example, and you are feeling very brave) you have to deal with four strands of a tale, make the intertwining of those four strands the one big thing you have to say. You may put twiddly bits into your story, but only if you can do so without departing from the one linear narrative you have chosen. ...

15. Words have meanings. Respect those meanings. Get radical and look them up in the dictionary, find out where they have been. Then use them properly. Don't flaunt authority by flouting your ignorance. Don't whatever you do go down a hard road to hoe, without asking yourself how you would hoe a road. Or for that matter, a roe. ...

24. There are things that good taste and the law will simply not let you say in print. My current favourites are "Murderer acquitted" and (in a report of an Easter religious play) "Paul Myers, who played Jesus Christ, emerged as the star of the show." Try and work out which one has the taste problem, and which one will cost you approximately half a million per word.

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