Journalism is silly

When I read a sentence like this, I’m ever-so glad I never pursued that career in journalism I thought I wanted as a child:

Best known as the genocidal dictator who butchered millions in his quest to unite Europe under German rule, Hitler also had a largely unsuccessful career as an artist in his early years.

That wins the award of the silliest dependant clause lead-in sentence I’ve ever read! Who the hell doesn’t know who Adolph Hitler is? Do you really think you need to feed us the general background information about the person involved, as you would for, perhaps, some third world figure the average human being doesn’t know about. I mean, an equally stupid sentence would be something along the lines of:

Best known for his suffering death by crucifixion on charges of sedition and his subsequent alleged return from death a day later, Jesus Christ began his career as a carpenter under the tutelage of his stepfather in Nazareth.

I mean, come on, how stupid does the Associated Press really think we are?? I am so glad that I don’t write in a profession that makes me state the obvious. Woe is the day that the entire educated human race doesn’t know who Hitler is (for we should always remember the man in order to avoid ever letting such horrid people into power again). Or Jesus Christ for that matter (since even non-Christians such as myself can find life lessons in his teachings). Geesh. This is why I don’t subscribe to or read the paper, people! It’s great reading… for a sixth grader.

Thanks for making me chuckle, Martin Benedyk. God bless your Journalism degree. You could teach a class now that you’ve mastered the art of providing background information to the assumed ignorant reader. (I remember when we had to write sentences like this in the one and only journalism class I took in high school… and flunked… because I didn’t like the watered down approach to writing forced by journalism.)

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7 thoughts on “Journalism is silly

  1. <>I am so glad that I don’t write in a profession that makes me state the obvious.<>But Heidi, you write technical manuals. Don’t you have to include stuff like, “Turn on your computer before installing this software” in them? :)

  2. Nope. I’ve never written a statement that obvious. Seriously. Not ever. The general trend in the software industry is to no longer tell people to turn on their computers before doing anything. It’s especially stupid when you’re writing a help file! ;) We actually are assuming people know more about computers these days. Which may be good or bad. But we no longer explain easy concepts, like what a window is or what we mean by “right-clicking” something. We used to have to explain all this stuff at the beginning of every manual but we dont anymore.

    And when I worked in industrial machinery, you did have to tell them how to turn the machine on because most often the process involved more than flipping on a switch.

    So I can say with all honesty that my procedures rarely involve stating the obvious. Unless you’re a smart user and already know what the thing I’m describing is for, in which case you probably wouldnt be reading my help file or manual… unless you just enjoy that kind of reading… and God help you if you do…

  3. lol, thanks Diane, I was going to quote and say the same thing :)

    “The next step is to plug your machine into an electrical socket. <> The machine will not work unless it is plugged in to an electrical socket.<> There is a chord with 2 prongs attached to the machine. Put the two prongs into the electrical socket in an outlet. Make sure the chord is attached to the machine and that the socket has electricity flowing through it. Stick your finger in the socket to be sure it is woking. If your hair stands on end, it is working.”

  4. You guys are mean. *pouty* Like I said, I’ve never written the obvious… I’m a *good* tech writer. And I’ll defend that even though I’d rather have a career that uses my creative skills. So :P on you all. And at least I dont have to try to define who Hitler is as if no one knew.

  5. Well, in defense of journalism (seeing that I used to date a reporter), I remember him telling me that newspapers are intentionally written at a lower reading-grade level. I forget what level his newspaper was supposed to be written to, but it was only something like 4th or 5th grade. So as a journalist, if your writing style already requires that you assume your reader has a limited vocabulary, you also have to assume that your reader doesn’t have the background knowledge, too.

    But that still doesn’t excuse that really convoluted sentence about Hitler.

    And Frank, I’m so glad you’re not a tech manual writer, otherwise the rates of death by electrical shock in Columbus might be much higher!

  6. Oh, but here’s another example of journalism cliche:

    <>ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ For more than 55 years, the volunteer actors and stagehands of the Town & Gown Players have entertained patrons in this Southern college town with all manner of productions: Shakespearian classics, Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and Woody Allen's screwball comedies.

    But nothing could prepare them for the real-life tragedy that struck over the weekend.<>I hate journalistic transitions!! They are so over-done…

  7. As if nightly television news teasers like APE RAMPAGES THROUGH CITY…NEWS AT 11 spots are any better. Then its always the last story in the newscast. Is only 15 seconds. And its about a stuffed toy or something everyone wants but no one really cares about. Without the sensational transitions how else is the reporter going to entice someone to read what is otherwise a boring story? I mean face it most news or stories are dull and most attention spans are measured in split seconds now.

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