All good writers follow three simple rules. They have something to say and they say it well.
And once they’ve said, they shut up.
Of course, if it was that simple, we’d all have given up the day jobs and would be living the high life on the proceeds of our writing. But it isn’t and, we’re not, so, over the next couple of posts I’ll examine those rules in a little more detail.
Let’s start, though, with rule one: have something to say.
For the news reporter, writing a straightforward news story means having something new or interesting to tell readers that they [the reader] didn’t know before.
And if, you, the news journalist haven’t got anything new to say – find something else to write about that is new and, therefore, interesting.
It’s a little less straightforward for the feature writer, who, in most cases, will be writing about a person, place or issue already in the news. Here their role is to tell the story behind the story. Where a news journalist goes in and gets the facts and tells the story straight without any emotion or embellishments (Pape and Featherstone, 2006: 59-60), the feature writer has to be able to provide new insights or new perspectives or new ways of seeing. And, once again, if you can’t – write about something else instead.
The roles of the news journalist and the feature writer are, therefore, pretty clear cut and, apart from the regional press, where news journalists may also write features, and vice versa, it’s rare for there to be much cross-over between the two. Established feature writers don’t write straightforward news stories and news reporters tend to stick to reporting the news.
The blogger, though, has much more freedom to mix and match and to post news posts alongside feature-ish personal opinion or viewpoint pieces. And, that’s fine – as long, as the two styles of posts are kept completely separate. News posts should be straight and factual and completely free of any hint of personal opinion while opinion pieces should be a deft mix of evidence, analysis and comment that leave the reader in absolutely no doubt about what he or she should think about a person, issue or event.
And there’s the rub: because whilst it’s great fun climbing on your soapbox and giving the world your two pennies worth of opinion, you’ll end up with egg on your face if you can’t express those opinions knowledgeably, authoritatively and succinctly.
Further, you’ve got to say it before anyone else says it – and you’ve got to say it better.
Which brings us neatly to rule two: say it well. But that’s a topic for my next post.