Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bloated newspaper articles

Michael Kinsley at the Atlantic has an interesting piece online arguing that newspapers are losing relevance and readers because of their increasingly anachronistic style and conventions, which have become sacrosanct in journalism, but which are about as useful as twenty little pillows on a bed. The whole piece is great and worth reading – I especially like the analyses of random NYT/WaPo quotes – but here's what I'm gonna excerpt:

Quotes from outside experts or observers are also a rich source of unnecessary verbiage in newspaper articles. Another New York Times story from the November 8 front page provides a good example here. It’s about how the crackdown on some Wall Street bonuses may have backfired. Executives were forced to take stock instead of cash, but then the stock went up, damn it. This is an “enterprise” story—one the reporter or an editor came up with, not one dictated by events. And the reporter clearly views the information it contains as falling somewhere between ironic and appalling, which seems about right. But it’s not her job to have a view. In fact, it’s her job to not have a view. Even though it’s her story and her judgment, she must find someone else—an expert or an observer—to repeat and endorse her conclusion. These quotes then magically turn an opinionated story into an objective one.

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