Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Queen of the News Release Rewrite

Old Word Wolf has made a difference in local journalism. DeSoto Sun readers now generally get a phrase or two of attribution when a staff writer copies from a press release. This is an improvement over the old days, when re-typing a news release to make it look like local enterprise reporting was standard in these parts.

Attributing gives readers a chance to evaluate the quality of the reporter’s sources. Here’s a good example. In the fifth paragraph announcing a meeting next week at the ag extension office about a crop disease, the “editor” reports a statement made by “Cindy Heflin of the DeSoto extension office in the press release.”

Readers now have a chance to evaluate the authority and stature this reporter’s source, and quick trip to the extension office Web site finds Ms. Heflin is the office receptionist.

We thank the reporter for her enterprise in making the news release sit still long enough for a rewrite, and we admire her for getting as far as the receptionist in digging for the story.

Meanwhile, back at the head shop, they're still smoking:


The First Annual

And finally, it's not a big deal except it's one of those little things. For years and years, editors across the nation have been asking reporters not to write about "the first annual" anything. There's a logic to it. Annual means something happens yearly. If something is happening for the first time, it's not annual, yet. Write "first of what organzers hope will be an annual event," or something like that.

Newspaper writers who don't bother to fix this sloppy-writing/careless-thinking indicator reveal three things:

1. They don't care (about their busy editors who are very tired of correcting this childish oversight).
2. They don't care (about their readers who are very tired of reading sloppy-brained sentences).
3. They don't care (about the quality of their own writing because they are too tired to practice the basic standards of their chosen profession).

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