Some things about writing

I’m a big fan of making sure students never ask a rhetorical question in their copy. There are a few times when it works. Too often, though, it leads to things like this non sequitur, “Are you a Red Bull Drinker? Do you want to be?” Red Bull Settlement: How to claim your piece of $13 million

There’s a great line in this story, a story which is always difficult to tell. This is the sentencing hearing for a young man found guilty of a triple murder. Jury hears emotional testimony from Leonard’s father during sentencing hearing:

Wright, who wore clothes he borrowed from Leonard, pleaded with the court to spare his son, who is facing the death penalty for fatally shooting three people and wounding three others during a party at the former University Heights apartment complex on June 9, 2012.

Dad is in and out of prison. He tells the judge and jury that he has never really been in his son’s life. Dad is actually been hauled to this hearing from his prison sentence, and he’s had to borrow his son’s clothes. The reporter, Drew Taylor, told me he’d noticed that the tie was familiar. He’d seen the defendant, and now his father, wear it during the trial. That’s the sort of reporting you can’t get over the phone or in a rewrite. Message: Go to the place you’re writing about.

The trend of changing story shapes continues, Marketwatch editor: Most stories will now be less than 400 words:

We need to reshape how markets and financial stories are told to better reflect how they are consumed. What do I mean by that? Like most news sites, MarketWatch still leans too heavily on the 750-word story — a legacy of print newspapers that has outlived its usefulness. We want to go shorter – and longer.

The majority of our stories will soon be under 400 words — breaking everything down into short bursts of news and insight that cut straight to what is most important to readers, without all the empty calories and filler journalists love to stuff in the sausage . We will also do longer, deep dives on important stories that warrant such treatment. This is the way the digital news is going: tall and venti, no more grande.

It is an organic process. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that.


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