Sunday, August 05, 2007

Basic Journalism

Some headline stories leave you wondering if the reporter has a clue to what the job requirements are for journalism. I read one that falls into the category on the Fox website in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, “South Carolina Highway Closed After Cops Find Explosives in Car’s Trunk ”.

I wanted to find out who was driving the vehicle; was it an environmental whacko, a militant Islamic terrorist or some local on his way to blow up tree stumps on his farm. No information was given other than, “Julie Johnson, assistant special agent-in-charge for the FBI in Columbia, said there was "no immediate threat," according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier.”

It must be my week to remember old black and white movies; the one that comes to mind is Teacher’s Pet , with Clark Gable and Doris Day. Clark Gable plays a city editor who came up the hard way and has little regard for college types, those who don’t fit his idea of a hard nosed reporter. Doris Day plays the college professor who teaches journalism as the two are set for a head on collision.

Gable ends up taking her class, under an assumed name, and proves that he’s good at his job; reporting news in as short and concise a space as possible, “I have six little friends; their names are Who, What, When Where Why and How.” I hope I got that line right since it has everything to do with why I started this article. He then takes on the added purpose of any newspaper, “Newspapers don’t make money from their stories they make it from the advertising space they sell. Each word that isn’t needed in a story takes up space that could be used for advertising.”

I didn’t learn much from the Fox news article; nothing that would indicate the need to waste valuable space that could have been used more wisely. I’d like to have watched as Clark Gable had his blue editor’s pencil in hand, going through each line, each word, and slashing anything which didn’t answer those necessary questions who, what, when, where, why and how. It would have been even more fun watching him bellow at the reporter as he reminded him/her about the basic rules every journalist should know; that would have been more enlightening than what Fox printed as a headline news story.

No comments: