Journalism 101

I was fortunate to have pragmatic, no-nonsense journalism professors as I learned the trade. I was also fortunate to be there during a time when computers were taking over the newsroom and “mechanical” or analog processes were on their way out.

Because I learned during this transitional time I was taught both methods — analog and digital. Though we used computers to write copy, that copy had to be transferred by paste-up to boards.

Though I’m not an artist, and leave the work of headlines, copy flow and photo placement up to the experts in our design office, the days of mechanical paste-up, as we called it back in the day, gave me a good feel for what looks right and what doesn’t.

This “feel” is a mixture of subjectivity and objectivity. Yes, there are principals — even simple mathematical principles — that guide design, but there’s still quite a bit of subjectivity… “Why is this purple? I hate purple.”

However, on the copywriting side, there is supposed to be little room for subjectivity. We were taught to take a Joe Friday approach, but in such a way that it wouldn’t read like a school term paper.

There was also an element of cynicism or skepticism. Basically, the axiom, “Don’t believe everything you read or hear,” applies.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a trend where people will take things at face value, and refuse to dig further, or try harder.

I’m the victim of many a forwarded Urban Legend. You might be familiar with the type that ends up in your e-mail Inbox via an acquaintance who has an automated “people-I-never-talk-to-but-like-to-forward-Urban-Legends-to” mailing list setup in Outlook.

One of my favorites is that Bill Gates will give $1,000 to everyone who forwards the message he’s just sent that asks everyone to forward the message. He’s working on an e-mail tracing program, don’t you know, and your part in the experiment will yield a payday. Why not? The dude’s a multi-quadillionaire, right?

Unlike design, assertions — whether via Urban Legend forwarding or even that reported in the press — that “feel” right aren’t always right.

“Use your feelings, Luke,” might’ve been good advice from Obi-Wan Kenobi in order to utilize the existential Force more effectively, but feelings can be deceiving in more pragmatic manners.

So, when reaching for shouldas, couldas and wouldas, it’s usually best to go with what it is, then develop the solution based on that reality.

That thread has been consistent in the successful parks and recreation departments we’ve reported on here in Parks & Rec Business.

Though “feel” is often involved in the process, hard-nose reality dictates direction, and subjectivity is subject to objectivity.

Don’t forget to let us know how you have, or have not, achieved that balance, so that others can learn from your successes and failures. Failure may not be an option, but sometimes it’s the only option to create success.

Thanks,

Regan D. Dickinson

Editor

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