liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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On the State of Small Town Journalism Today...

Dear Reporters Who Are Currently Employed At a Small-Town Newspaper I Used to Work At,

What the fuck?

No, seriously.

What the fuck?

I have no words. You all write like you rode the short bus to journalism school. When I clicked around and saw your pictures, my worst fears were confirmed. You all look like you write.

Not to mention that most of you look like you're 12.

You write like you're 12, too.

I expected any minute to come across LOLZ! and ROTFLMAO! in the middle of an aritcle. No shit. Your writing is that pathetic.

In case you missed it, no, I don't think this is a good thing.

There's this little thing I like to call "grammar." You may recall what this mysterious grammar is, but going by the articles I read on your Web site, I seriously doubt it. Here's a little rant to refresh your memory.

Back in the bad ol' days, when we had to trudge through fire, flood, nor'easter, and hurricane-force winds — not to mention walk uphill both ways — to get to a story, we had to wear suits (yes, even the wimmins) and pumps (yes, even the mens) so the cops would know we weren't one of the gawkers at the latest murder-by-machete over a drug deal gone bad. We had to look professional, lest someone confuse us local prostitutes and johns. Although I confess that wearing a suit didn't always distinguish me from the prostitutes in the eyes of some johns. I could've seriously added to my income on some nights if I was up for a little sucky-sucky-twenty-five-dollars.

You, on the other hand, all look like you woke up in jail and are confuzzled about how you got there. This is in the pictures on your newspaper's Web site fer chrissakes. Couldn't you, I don't know, at least comb your hair before your pictures were taken?

You may think this is an amusing aside, but it really isn't. You don't look professional. This is not surprising because your writing, as individual "reporters" and as a "newsroom," sucks donkey balls. It is not professional in any way, shape, or form.

Where the fuck is the copy desk? And why haven't the copy editors killed you yet? At the very least, why haven't they whipped the lot of you with leather belts until you agree to read Strunk and White and follow the AP Stylebook like good little reporters?

Here's a hint:

When using using the possessive noun when refering to the shoes of multiple little kids, you write, "the children's shoes" not "the childs' shoes."

Commas are inside the quotation marks. Always. Not just sometimes and not just when you feel like it.

At some point in the story, can you please tell me the first name of the person you're quoting? Tradition holds that it should be on the first mention, but at this point I'm not picky. I'll take it even if it's in the last graph.

And what the fuck is this lead?

"Workers on Thursday began the tall task of cleaning up after Wednesday's Vans Warped Tour concert, which drew 15,000 fans to the city's airport."

"Tall task?" That's flipping awkward phrase, dontchya think? Especially considering you buried the frigging lede, which was scattered all over this particular story like shards of glass.

I've got a better lead for you, which I wrote precisely 2.5 seconds after I scanned your story:

"Local officials yesterday debated whether the $25,000 paid by the Warped Tour for use of the city airport was worth it as city workers began the arduous task of cleaning up after 15,000 concert-goers and local business owners calculated the sales that they lost as a result of traffic-choked roads."

I read your lede and I'm all: "Yeah, I guess cleaning up after 15,000 concert-goers is a 'tall task.' So?"

Your lede is not telling me why your story is "news," let alone why it's on the front page above the fold or why I should read it.

I read my lede and go, "Wow! Next time, the city better ask for more money and make some demands on those Warped Tour people to deal with litter and traffic before they let them back into the airport."

Maybe my lede doesn't explain why this story is on the front page, but at least it explains why the story is news and that maybe I should read more to get the skinny. What's more, even if I don't read any further than the lede, I know exactly what the story's about.

Back in my day, if a reporter wrote a lede like yours, Mike, the chain-smoking copy editor from hell — not to mention the best damn copy editor in the whole damn universe — would've humiliated that reporter in middle of the newsroom. If the poor reporter ran into him outside before Mike had a chance to humiliate that reporter in the newsroom, Mike would've slowly lit up one of his beloved Camels, then he would've taken a purposeful three puffs until that lit end started glowing a nice, bright, hellfire red, and then he would've stubbed the lit end in one of that reporter's eyes.

He didn't do it to be mean. He did it because he fucking cared, man. He fucking cared for you, and your mad skilllz, and the newspaper.

I know, because I worked with the dude at two newspapers. No shit. I got my job at the second newspaper because he saw me come in and told the managing editor to hire my ass before someone else did.

Mike fucking loved me so much, he went out of his way to kick my ass if he thought I slacked off for so much as a second.

You guys? Wouldn't last 5 seconds in the newsroom with ol' Mike. Nope. Not at all. Because this writing I see? It's shit. Utter and absolute shit.

I cannot belive that this same newspaper once produced YA author Robert Cormier.

How the mighty have fallen.

That weeping sound you're hearing? That's me.

It's okay. Ignore me if you want.

Do me one favor, though.

Get down on your knees — yes, you, and you, and you, and all of your little newsroom buddies — and thank your respective deities that I'm not on the copy desk.

'Cause if I was, I'd beat you all black-and-blue until you learned how to write like the professionals you're supposed to be. More than a few of you would have one eye.

You wanna know why I'd humiliate your ass like that?

Because I fucking care, man.

And I learned from the best.

[This rant brought to you by the letters Q and S, and the number 7. Sponsored by the Corporation for I-Will-From-Now-On-Deny-Until-My-Dying-Day-That-I-Got-A-Journalism-Degree.]

I have to go breathe into a paper bag now.

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