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Writing: Tell It Like It Is (with thanks to Aaron Neville)

I’ve been collecting some writing that has caught my attention: in a bad way.  A good reporter should write clearly and simply.  The writing should move  the story along and provide cogent information.  We are not purple prose screenwriters.  We are journalists.

Here are some examples: 

“Police found him bound and breathless”.  This was not after a hot date. He was dead.  How about something else like ‘Police found him bound with duct tape.  He was pronounced dead on the scene’.
”.. continue to search for the gunman that took him away”.  He wasn’t kidnapped. Like the gentleman above- this person was also unfortunately dead.  The search was on for the gunman that killed him.
“The death toll is now over 4 dozen.”.  I’d prefer the exact number.. or if it's still fluid- then "over 48".  We’re not talking about a fabulous bouquet of flowers.
 On the other hand- sorry, Aaron, I love ya' but your 'tell it like it is' advice doesn't apply to us here:

Writing to video

"Family members leaned on those nearby".  That’s just what we saw. It’s similar to the sentence that tells us about the beautiful day "with folks picnicking.. playing Frisbee and running with their dogs’.  Writing to video means addressing the issue that they represent.  You don’t need to spell it out for us.  So in sample a.) how about “family members grieved as..”… and in sample b) perhaps “with folks grabbing quality outdoor time".   
 But I end below on a Positive Note….. !
Bending My Ear in a Good Way
I’ve never named names and I know there are many terrific writers among you: but I can’t resist pointing out 2 sentences by Tom Costello, NBC News.  I’ve always appreciated his writing.. starting with his CNBC days.  On March 3 Tom was in Maryville, Indiana covering the aftermath of the tornados.  Here’s a sample of writing that caught my ear in a good way: “Today’s growl of chainsaws replaced the hurricane’s roar.  Indiana’s governor described the damage as incomprehensible”. And I must note here that the governor’s SOT was moving… and did not have the word ‘incomprehensible’ in it.
As always- I thank you for all that you do. And just bear in mind: if you’d like to stand out:: good writing is a major key.

Previously featured on the Radio Television Digital News Association as the News Coach blog series.


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