When I started college, I had the government approved major of journalism. You see, I had to take the Strong Interest Inventory Test at the VA because the VA was paying my tuition and sending me $200/month. $200/month in 1970 was pretty good and not paying tuition to the expensive, private woman’s college (which had also given me a scholarship) was very good. Not that I wanted to go there. I didn’t, but they’d accepted me and were paying and it was my mother’s dream. Ultimately, I was invited to go to school elsewhere, but that’s not what this post is about.
I got high scores on “Newspaper writer” “News Commentator” and “Journalist.” I also got high scores on “Lawyer” and “Forest Ranger” but those were not dreams shared by my mom on my behalf. Journalist was. She gave me a portable typewriter when I graduated high school to get me on my way. Years later, a really famous journalist of my mom’s generation, George Reading, heard that story and said, “That was where she went wrong. If she wanted you to be a journalist, she should have given you a one-way ticket to Turkey so you would have had to write your way home. A typewriter means she wanted you to be a secretary.”
I have been a secretary, as it happens, and only briefly, tangentially, irrelevantly a journalist. As I told my mom back then, I didn’t want to WRITE the news, I wanted to BE the news.
Oh well. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
Back then we learned to write using this thing called the “inverted triangle.” It meant that you put all the really important stuff people needed and wanted to know at the top of your article followed by other material in descending order of importance with the least important information at the end of the article. I was the Editorial Editor for my college paper and even in the realm of editorial we were taught to “get to the damned point.”
That doesn’t seem to be the way things work any more. It seems like most of the time when I open (online) a bit of journalistic prose to read, it is one anecdote after another before ever getting to the meat of, the purpose behind, the REASON the article was written. Just now, having been “teased” by National Geographic, I opened an article on a colossal dust-storm in Phoenix only to read first a four paragraph story about some guy in Kentucky, then a two paragraph story about a Montana farmer, a several paragraph story about somone on Cape Cod, then something about the dust storm and THEN the point of the article.
OK, one can kind of expect this kind of wandering discursive prose from National Geographic which is supposed to be tuned more to “human interest” (it was not always like that, by the way) but from a regular newspaper? With all the goings on in the world I’m reading more news and there, again…
Here’s an article from USA Today that gets to the point about the vote to confirm Betsy deVos. Here’s an article from ABC News that does the same job somewhat, but leaves out important information that, according to the old school, should be in the beginning. It says that Ms. de Vos has “cleared a major hurdle” but never says what that hurdle was. And here is one from the New York Times that puts this information far, far down in a largely anecdotal, editorialized and somewhat inflammatory piece.
Maybe it is because I’m reading online and very often there is a little screen with talking people appended to the article I’m reading. Maybe I’m supposed to listen to people talk rather than reading the words myself, but I have very low aural comprehension and usually end up critically analyzing the appearance of the talking heads rather than listening to them. Basically, I just what to know what happens. I don’t want to know what I should think about it. I don’t care about other people and what they think about it.