Tag Archives: rules

New rules for news

Via Chairman Bruce, here’s a list of 22 rules for the New New Journalism from Dan Gillmor at The Guardian. As Bruce points out, there more than a hint of the idealist networked society about them, but they’re still worth reading – think of it more as a manifesto for a society where journalism was actually meant to keep people informed rather than confused.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

2. We would invite our audience to participate in the journalism process, in a variety of ways that included crowdsourcing, audience blogging, wikis and many other techniques. We’d make it clear that we’re not looking for free labour – and will work to create a system that rewards contributors beyond a pat on the back – but want above all to promote a multi-directional flow of news and information in which the audience plays a vital role.

Nothing too new there, but the promise to acknowledge the origin of crowdsourced material is good.

7. We would replace PR-speak and certain Orwellian words and expressions with more neutral, precise language. If someone we interview misused language, we would paraphrase instead of using direct quotations. (Examples, among many others: The activity that takes place in casinos is gambling, not gaming. There is no death tax, there can be inheritance or estate tax. Piracy does not describe what people do when they post digital music on file-sharing networks.)

Translation: “we’ll not advance or defend the political and economic interests of businesses with obfuscation”.

14. The word “must” – as in “The president must do this or that” – would be banned from editorials or other commentary from our own journalists, and we’d strongly discourage it from contributors. It is a hollow verb and only emphasizes powerlessness. If we wanted someone to do something, we’d try persuasion instead, explaining why it’s a good idea and what the consequences will be if the advice is ignored.

Translation: “we’ll encourage people to think for themselves rather than spoon-feed them other people’s agendas”. Probably the bravest item on the list, and – sadly – the one that will lay any venue that adopts it open to being slaughtered by its competition. In a den of liars, honesty is suicide; these rules would be a great manifesto if you were founding a new civilisation on a distant planet, but trying to push them onto the existing media  infrastructure is probably an exercise in futility.

I suspect that if the character of media is going to change, it will do so because the bulk of those of us who consume it start making it as well… and even if that happens, there’s no guarantee that everyone’s going to share the same ideas about how it should be done.

If you could impose one new rule on journalism, what would it be?

Twenty fiction-writing blunders to avoid

Aspiring (and possibly even experienced) fictioneers should take a look at E. E. Knight’s list of twenty mistakes that are made frequently by story writers. Not only informative, but delivered with a bit of quality sass, too. My favourite is his re-statement of the "Chekhov’s Gun" rule:

"10 – Beaming in: I get confused when characters, gear, and important features suddenly appear mid-scene. It’s one thing for Sam Spade to reach into his bottom desk drawer and pull out a cached bottle of whiskey, you’re showing where the object came from. It’s quite another for you to suddenly mention that there was a German bayonet war trophy in plain view atop the filing cabinet in the middle of a fist fight."

[tags]writing, fiction, tips, rules[/tags]