Today’s Rant D’Jour is from 2005. I hate to say this, but at times I can scribble a pretty fair line or two. It’s very short so I am sure it just went on the radio. How I wish I was doing just what it talks about.
I had trouble sleeping again last night
Lately that hasn’t been the case-I was sick for a while this past month so I slept pretty soundly although it was a medicated sleep.
I really didn’t mind so much…more
Blog Post for 2/24/11 – Thursday – 10 degrees at 6:15 AM – Blue white light from huge snow banks. Not so pretty as it sounds.
School work day
I am playing “Hooky” today but not for any fun reason. I have had a broken molar for about two years. It’s driving me nuts and is probably not the best thing to have in my mouth as a diabetic. So today I go see the man with the pliers.
Two Discussion assignments:
The first is to look at sources used to write the article examined. I chose a crappy article. But I think I gave it a fair evaluation.
Discussion Assignment # 4
The story I chose was:
BP Knew of Problems, But Did Nothing Before Gulf Blowout: Report
By: David Hammer, The Times-Picayune
The story is an examination of a 371 page supplementary report by the National Oil Spill commission, on the causes and possible preventive measures that could have been taken in connection with the Gulf oil well blowout.
The National Oil Spill Commission and its lead counsel, Fred Bartlit Jr., had already released a final report to congress but Barlit continued his investigation and released the additional findings.
The report cites internal BP emails and experts from BP’s vendor, Halliburton, who provided cement sealing technology for the well among others.
Commenting on the report, the commission’s co-chairmen, former Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham of Florida and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly said: “In clear, precise, and unflinching detail, this report lays out the confusion, lack of communication, disorganization, and inattention to crucial safety issues and test results that led to the deaths of 11 men and the largest offshore oil spill in our nation’s history.”
Hammer basically uses the report as his source material. Since the story is about the report that makes sense. He did get the reaction quote from Graham and Reilly.
The story cites a statement in which BP said: “It has cooperated fully with the commission and has made major changes to its safety management structure.
This includes undertaking a comprehensive review of the way BP supervises its contractors,” the BP statement said. “The importance of this review is underscored by (Bartlit’s) report.”
And this: “Halliburton spokeswoman Teresa Wong said the company is still reviewing Bartlit’s findings.”
So Hammer used the report, got the Commission members reaction (It’s not clear where that quote came from), quoted a BP press release and got stonewalled by Halliburton.
The story could have used a few more sources actually commenting about the report. Some independent sources, experts who could have read the report and made some comments.
The second assignment uses quotes from the text book. We were to explain why these quotes spoke to us. The text is Inside Reporting by Tom Harrower. It’s a VERY different text book, set up more like a web site on a written page. Mixed reviews on that. But it’s been very helpful to me.
Here are the quotes:
Don’t turn in a story you wouldn’t read. And when they tell you newspapers are a business, believe them.
Ken Fuson, The Des Moines Register
Don’t commit yourself to one single technology. It will change.
Andrew DeVigal, The New York Times
Read voraciously. Find the best reporters and read every word they write. Try to figure out how they do what they do, and then incorporate what you want into your own style. Another piece of advice: Take a typing class. I’m not even sure if they offer
them anymore, but I’ve always been jealous of the reporters whose fingers absolutely fly on deadline.
Bret Bell, Savannah Morning News
Don’t lean on “quotes.” Focus too much on finding them during reporting and you’ll miss more telling details. Good quotes are rare. You can tell the story better than the characters in it. So after writing, go back and take out half the quotes. And don’t quote me on this.
Bob Batz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
and the assignment as turned in:
Discussion Assignment #5
One of my editors told me the other day that the story I had written was “interesting.” I don’t know exactly why, but that really caught my attention. I guess that I had in some way forgotten that the eventual reader must enjoy reading what I wrote. It’s easy to get immersed in the mechanics of building a story and not so easy to remember that I am telling a story. For me the lesson is to stand back when I am done with writing, and read with the eyes of the target audience. Easier said than done.
Technology moves so blindly fast now that it’s impossible to keep up. I teach media technology. I work at keeping up with it, by reading blogs, columns and subscribing to RSS feeds about developing technology and still I find myself falling behind. A good example: The web pages I edit in the last two years have changed the way we add video three times. The first two incarnations were miserably labor intensive, taking a great deal of manipulation and editing to get the players to fit in the pages or even to work. Now it’s a line of code, cut and pasted. Technology reminds me of the old saw: “Lead, follow, or get out the way.” Nowadays you can easily get run over.
Stephen King said it in his book “On writing” – “If you want to be a writer,” says King, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Of those two pieces of advice I think the best is to read a lot. I am rarely without a book. I eat while reading. I exercise on the treadmill reading. I read myself to sleep every night. I read anything and everything and have always done so. I have found lately that I learn more from reading really bad writing (romance novels are good for this) than I do from something that is well written. Truly good writing tends to be invisible. Bad writing sticks out.
A very wise and learned professor once looked over a story I had written. I had worked and slaved over an interview. I even went so far as to transcribe every single word of the interview, to make it easy to insert quotes into my story. I presented the finished product to my professor and he looked at it, looked at me and said, “This is not writing, it’s typing.”
What he showed me will stick with me for the rest of my writing career. Just putting quotes into a story for the sake of it is wrong. A quote should be used to tell some aspect of the story better than the writer could. A quote should reveal an aspect of the subject, advance the story and make the reader more familiar with the person being interviewed. Not just fill space with typing. A good lesson and one I think I have learned.