In a class I took with Patrick Winston, one of our assignments was to write a press release on a topic I have since forgotten. The first rule, he said, was to put the most important information in the first paragraph, the next most important in the second, and so on, because various publications will chop the release at various lengths to make it fit their desired column inches. It made perfect sense, but I hadn’t seen a counter-example failing until today…
Yesterday, Amal sent out the following e-mail to putz both linking to a story and conveniently summarizing it:
From: Amal Dorai
Summary: Marine has doctors cut off his finger to save his wedding ring. They do so, but end up losing his ring the commotion.
Today this same story appeared in the Metro, the free daily paper I read on the T every morning. Except there was something missing – the Metro, in its ongoing pursuit of journalistic excellence,
trimmed the story after the fourth paragraph. But the punchline doesn’t show up until the fifth paragraph. And suddenly I find myself grateful to Amal for sending out one of his stupid links because I knew why that story was tragically funny and the guy sitting next to me probably didn’t.
I love how you pretended to know what you were talking about in this post. First of all, it wasn’t an example of a failure, because it wasn’t a press release. It was an AP story, and those two things are completely different and are written completely different. Second of all, the Metro has a different purpose than an actual newspaper does, so it did not fail in journalistic excellence. One simple little assignment of writing a press release doesn’t make you a journalist.
Lisa, you seem to have missed the sarcasm of this post. Everyone who reads the Metro knows that it does not pursue “journalistic excellence.” Nevertheless, it’s always funny to catch an editing mistake such as the one the editors made by cutting off the story before the fifth paragraph (which contains the ironic punchline of the story).
Also, you made a grammatical error in your third sentence.
Finally, what makes you a journalist, anyway? Do you write for the New York Times or something?
I am a journalist. I am a staff writer at 2 different newspapers and am also Copy Editor and on the executive board of one of them. There is not a grammatical error in my 3rd sentence. Because of the structure of the sentence, it is acceptable to have two “and”s in the sentence.
It was not an editing mistake. The last part is not newsworthy. The most important part of it is the fact that he chose his ring over his finger for his wife. Everything else is just minute details. Our job isn’t to report irony in our stories… it’s to report the most newsworthy fact.
That seems to reduce the journalist to a mere fact-filter, which I’m sure you’re not trying to imply.
Suppose a journalist decides fact A is more newsworthy than fact B. However, to the reader of the news article, fact B was more relevant, interesting or useful. Do you then, as the journalist, lambast the reader and tell them they wouldn’t know what news is from a hole in the ground?
Since the Metro’s main function is to provide amusing anecdotes and News McNuggets to the commuting populace, it seems far more relevant to give the ironic punchline than a dry rendition of facts.
On the other hand I could get all postmodern and argue about the irrelvance of “facts” and “objectivity,” but that would be disingenuous.
1. The grammar mistake I was refering to is the misuse of the word “different” the second time it appears in the third sentence. This word is modifying the verb “written” and thus should be used in the adverbial form “differently.”
2. “The most important part of it is the fact that he chose his ring over his finger for his wife. Everything else is just minute details.” Umm…I personally think the fact that the doctors lost his ring is not a “minute detail.” I guess we disagree on what constitutes the most important part of the story.
Wow. Life and death over a blog entry. A few years ago, I would have suggested everyone take a couple shots of something strong and just chill, but since I’m not much of a shooter anymore, maybe a nice mug of hot chocolate and some jazz would help. Can’t we all just get along?? 🙂
My brother-in-law lost a finger in a boating accident. A “sympathetic” friend sent him a card and some money — a five and four ones.
Ha! You complain publicly about my dumb links but secretly relish them.