Friday, February 6, 2009

Journalism or Creative Writing?

You know, it's usually easy to tell the difference between journalism and creative writing. There is just a certain... feel that creative writing has that really has no place in a news article. Sure, some of the concepts found in creative writing can be in an EDITORIAL, but in a news article? No.

Case in point, this first sentence from a recent news report in the The News Courier (Athens, Alabama's newspaper):
The ominous sound of sliding metal and the 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was cocked and ready to deliver death to two Athens cousins out for a night of drinks and dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s Dec. 17, 2006.
That's not a sentence that one expects to find in a news article. First off, there are the descriptive adjectives both create a bias in the reader's mind and reveal a bias on the part of the article's author. The "ominous sound" is a specific turn of a phrase and one which creates a certain attitude throughout the reading of the article as a whole.

And it's poor bad journalism.

The reason I say that it's such, is because the article is about the events which lead up to a man shooting 4 (killing 2, wounding 2) people in an Athen's TGI Friday's.

Yet, the article reads like either a murder mystery or a attack on gun owners. In fact, the way the text is written, it makes it seem like the GUN is the evil thing that killed two people and wounded two others, rather than the man, who was a drug dealer, who pulled the trigger multiple times.

How many times must this be repeated: guns do not kill.

Now, consider this sentence:
The Board of Medicine has revoked the license of a Florida doctor accused of medical malpractice in a botched abortion case in which a live baby was delivered, but ended up dead in a cardboard box.
That sentence is from an article in The Buffalo News (and as an AP story) detailing what has happened to a Florida doctor. Reading that sentence, you know the fundamentals of the entire article. Go read the The News Courier sentence I quoted at the top again, what can you tell me about the article it came from? Both sentences were the first sentence from their respective news articles, but the latter works while the former falters for the reasons I've described.

Additional, The Buffalo News sentence you don't get any sense of a bias from the reporter. One can't tell from that sentence what the author's stance is on abortion, medical malpractice or just doctors in general.

While the author of that The News Courier article wears her anti-gun bias proudly on her sleeve and in her journalism.

Is it any wonder that news papers are a fast dying breed? After all, if this is the level of staff writers for a standard small-town newspaper, I'm not surprised that no one wants to buy it.

I know that an obvious bias on things is the reason that I had never subscribed to the Pensacola News Journal while living in Pensacola. As a digression, by the time I moved here to Madison, I had become so used to receiving my news and other information from online sources (I love Google Reader) that the local papers here never had a chance.

Unfortunately, the using Internet for news also means that I get to read more of these piss-poor staff reporters.

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