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How Not To Write Good Journalism


It's official. Britain is currently experiencing a mistake epidemic. They are everywhere.

The government and its policies, the exam boards and their questions and, of course, the newspapers and their articles. In fact, in a recent survey, many readers said that the articles in newspapers are so full with, and littered with, mistakes, that some of their articles are very hard to read.

Just a few years ago or so, it was very rare indeed to see any spelling errors, and certainly no significant ones. Yet these days you simply cannot find a paper that is not littered with errors. The Guardian is hard to read because of them. Look at the Sports section of the Telegraph and some of the articles, particularly football reports, are not written in english.

But these are not the only culprits, in truth all newspapers are. It is not even that there are grammatical mistakes in articles, it is that the articles are often simply wrong, the research has not been done, and blatant errors are presented boldly and without shame, as if they were researched fact. And do apologies appear? Do letters sent in informing them of how bad some of their journalists are get published? Of course not! The respective journalists probably get a pat on the back and a bit fat pay cheque.

So what is going on? Well, firstly it seems that proof readers are dead. Or, if not, they simply do not do their jobs thoroughly anymore, perhaps being under pressure to read more and more pages filled with more and more dirth and rubbish. That's one explanation. Perhaps with the spell-check facilities that all publishing programs allege to have these days are used instead, with the consequences being there for all to see.

Part of the problem, of course, is today's journalists. The very, very sad fact about Britain is that those who are the most capable of writing are simply not getting to the 'top'. Instead, they are stuck writing very good articles in publications that are either specialist, or very small, in nature, and hence no-one gets to read them.

For whatever reason - perhaps like those in media in general these days - the talented do not get to the top. Rather it is the arrogant, the pushy, or those with connections. The spelling of many journalists and their grasp of grammar is, no doubt about it, simply much worse than that of Mr. Joe Public on the street. Their ability to write readable and accurate prose is also going nowhere fast.

Until we invest time and effort in showing confidence in those who truly can write, have interesting opinions and a good vocabularly, then this problem will snowball. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen, as those with connections and those pushy people who have maximum front and minimum talent will continue to saturate our journalism and make it forever sink into the distressing mires of mediocrity.

By: A Fed-up Brit on Tue, Jun 11th 2002

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