I’m not a journalist: I did a little bit of journalism training, I have been paid to write for a living, I blog a lot (which requires some of the same sort of skills, some of the time), I read a lot of “news”. I know a lot of journalists work very hard, write good stuff, care about what they do and care deeply about their profession.
But, you know why newspapers are failing? They’re mostly rubbish. So here’s a radical idea — have any of the people that are boring the rest of the Internet “searching for a new model” thought of this — why don’t they just “be any good”?
Steps a newspaper can take to “be any good”, first some things they can stop doing:
- Stop reprinting press releases without adding anything or checking facts.
It’s lazy, but also these days we can see them on the ‘net and in all other papers too — and you look foolish.
- Stop being fooled by “bad statistics” or “surveys” that are unreliable and presented in order to get column inches.
You know the sort, “people with brummie accents are thought of as most stupid” based on asking 50 people in London the question ‘do you think people with brummie accents are stupid?’ on behalf of a voice-recognition software company.
- Stop being selective with the truth in order to promote an agenda.
Yes, Daily Mail, you’re one of the worst. But all papers do it. How about you tried straight reporting again, you might like it.
- Stop bickering with each other, and claiming “exclusives”.
We’ll know when something is unique to your publication — your publication will be the only one to feature it.
- Stop browbeating TV, Radio (BBC especially) because you feel threatened.
Radio didn’t kill you, TV didn’t kill you, the Internet might (what with it being mostly text based) but making media duller by being ready to leap on and scream blue murder about anything remotely edgy isn’t helping anyone. It is making your publication’s hypocrisies more obvious.
- Stop hyping things up and artificially creating controversy.
The Internet won’t cause cancer, nor will apples, fish, or paragliding. Correlation and cause are different things, and hating everything you don’t understand is boring us.
And to continue, some more advice on the road to “be any good”.
- Write just as much on any subject as it needs.
That’s right, if something is uninteresting it probably only merits a nib. A boring football match or boring U2 album is a passing sentence, not a pull-out supplement. Important things need deep analysis and explanation, that can take pages. Take a tip from the best bloggers who only write when there’s something to say.
- Try new stuff.
Try not doing the “Jon Bounds, 33,” thing for once, for example. Just ‘cos everyone else does this stupid rhythmic device doesn’t make it the law.
- Write well, and intelligently. Pick the best photographs, get the best graphics.
Avoid clichés, obvious or poor photoshopping. As a journalist, editor or photo editor you know what’s good. Don’t let shit into the paper or on to the website.
- Find stuff out and write about it.
Stop moaning about how the web breaks all the new stories, your pace of work allows an extra bit of time for research — find a new angle or something else.
Glib nonsense, but if a newpaper offered something wonderful I genuinely couldn’t get elsewhere then I’d buy it. Being easy to read on the bus/train aint going to be enough soon…
And enough with Bono, have I mentioned that?