Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Examining Elements of Bad Writing (Part II)


The writer whose work I critiqued in my last post is one whose work has appeared before in this blog. It seems this person’s writing skills have not improved over the past few years and, quite frankly, neither has the quality of the reporting from the local news station that employs this reporter.

So why did I bother to read that story in the first place?

The headline popped up in another website’s newsfeed. Intrigued by both the awkwardly worded title and the subject, I clicked the link. When I saw the reporter’s name in the byline, I knew an unpleasant read lay ahead, so I actually went to other local news sites to see if anyone else was covering this story.

No such luck.

After reading the story (and wishing I hadn’t, except that it was good to see a positive story rising from the ashes), a number of interconnected thoughts came to mind.

1. Does anyone in this reporter’s supervisory chain of command read the articles posted to the station’s website?

If not, why not? A second set of eyes can catch many blunders before they make their way into print.

If someone is reviewing website content, clearly that person also needs a refresher course on grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

2.  How does a writer or reporter stay employed by producing subpar work?

The editor at my freelance gig has definite journalistic standards. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if I lacked basic writing skills, or if I didn’t make an effort to learn from her coaching, I wouldn’t be writing for that publication. It’s as simple as that. So it’s a mystery to me that other “writers” earn paychecks when they can’t even get the basics right.

3. Is it really “all about the story?”

Maybe.

We now occupy a world where the news never stops. Well, okay, it’s always been that way, but now news and useless information are electronically blasted 24/7.  Shrinking pools of reporters must push out more information than ever, and do so as news is breaking in order to keep their readers hooked. Haste leads to typos, but that doesn’t excuse bad writing.

4. Do readers really care whether the writing is good, or do they just want information?

Yes and no, and yes. Some readers don’t care or don’t recognize mistakes; they just want to know what's happening. Others, like me, will have issues with bad writing and rampant typos, story be damned.

The takeaways:
  • You can’t ever go wrong with writing to the highest standards, or at least making the attempt. Grammarians will love you for it.
  • Every media outlet, no matter how small, needs a competent proofreader and/or editor to review published content. Period. 
  • Constant typos and bad writing will drive away readers and viewers. I am not the only one who has cancelled subscriptions or stopped watching certain newscasts simply because of poorly delivered content. 
My personal philosophy is to write as well as I can, no matter what the project is, because you just never know who your readers will be on a given day. No one gets a second chance to make a good first impression.

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