Journalists Should Bite the Bullet

screenshot from CNN’s website

It’s the one area where old-style journalism hasn’t really made the strides it could. I can understand why: Journalism is a very, very conservative profession. But The Journalism Iconoclast, written by Patrick Thornton, makes a telling point when he points to a nice new feature of’s website — the bullet point:

One of the features many people may have noticed with the relaunch of earlier this year is that CNN offers succinct bullet points above articles about the key points of the story. Most people skim stories anyway, so why not give them the ultimate way to skim an article? Maybe they will read the whole thing, but use the bullet points to help them remember key points.

Patrick suggests newspapers adopt this for their online offerings; I would actually be in favor of their doing it for their offline offerings too. Buzzmachine, for example, is not the only one bemoaning a buried lede. Indeed, I often find the inverted pyramid approach outdated and less useful for the sort of rapid scanning we do now we’re so webcentric.

One commenter to the story, Marc Matteo, points to one of the key problems with newspapers introducing this kind of bullet-point approach: Shrinking budgets and harried editors. In which case I would farm the bullet pointing out to people who aren’t even journalists. As Marc himself points out, non-journalism websites don’t seem to have this problem. How about allowing readers to add the bullet points themselves? Indeed, it may even be possible to automate the process.

The nasty truth is that a lot of what we take to be good sound journalistic writing was designed for an earlier, slower time. Now we want to catch the gist of something in a few seconds, and we’re looking for reasons not to read them, rather than feeling we should, we have to, or (God forbid) we want to.

Bottom line: Newspapers and all traditional media should not just be looking for new ways to deliver their news, but new ways to write it too. An example of good, pithy writing is actually Techdirt, which rarely strays (unlike this blog) over 250 words, including story, background and (usually quite tart) analysis.  

The Journalism Iconoclast

Does It Matter Where News Comes From?

Thoughtprovoking stuff from John Lloyd of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, who thinks news is a universal thing, like human rights. I know I do stuff for the BBC World Service but I’m with Daya Thussu on this: news reflects the values of the people who report it. They may be good values, and they may be my values, but you don’t need to live very long in other parts of the world to see that a London-centric view of the world (and reporting) is going to be different to that of someone living in a flood-prone slum. It’s not so much about values as perspective. 

I still think I’m right. I want news which tells me what’s going on, as truthfully as possible. I would, I think, share that view with many people of the south (I think Thussu would share that view, too). Another northerner, say an American republican, would want a news service from Fox which reflected more closely his views. I would have a different taste from my fellow northerner, but the same taste as many southerners. Thussu has a point if he means that people from, say, India want more news from India than they presently get on BBC, or CNN, or other “northern” channels: and they might like to see it presented by fellow Indians. But that’s a point about content and presentation, not about the way news is presented, or its purpose. The classic case for news is that it’s meant to inform, fully and fairly. Isn’t that a universal ideal, like human rights? What’s the difference, in this sense, between southern and northern news?