When repetition means ‘impact’ and compiling a list makes for ‘compelling news’

Posted by watchmen
February 9, 2018
Posted in OPINION
Having worked as a general assignment reporter and a correspondent for newspapers and online websites in the past, have gotten very accustomed to evaluating work before and after editing; seeing the differences, reviewing the corrections, and getting an idea of the publication’s writing style. Yet again, now, as an editor, am encountering a culture that does not ascribe to such customs and am left with going over the same mistakes and formats that, in the past, have repeatedly been scrapped.
Have aired such grievances to those involved before, yet, everything, apparently, as the old saying goes, went “in one ear and out the other.”
On one instance, a writer expressed their grievances for the way their pieces were being revised, claiming it did not provide the intended “impact” and was unhappy with how the articles were condensed. The primary reason why content was cut was because it was repetitive. It happens to a lot of writers, there’s an idea they run with and, amid the writing process, they end up repeating themselves (it happens often in the first few drafts when writing this column). However, considering the writer’s objections, apparently, the reiterations were intended. Am not aware of how repetition creates more of an impact.
Personally, if seeing a piece where the same point is just being reiterated over and over again, then reading ends after the first couple paragraphs – there’s no need to go any further since the concept is just the same. If a reader is prematurely turning the page on an article, it’s hard to see how repeating the same point makes the statement that much more impactful.
It could also be their method in trying to make their article appear longer, which is just as pointless.
There is also the style of writing the same statement over and over again, but closing each point differently. “If we work together, then we can [enter accomplishment 1]. If we work together, then we can [enter accomplishment 2]. If we work together, then we can [enter accomplishment 3].” – it usually stops at three, with the third intended to be the “most poignant.” It’s cliché and, by using it, only makes the writer look unoriginal. Although, considering they believe repetition equals impact, is it the same belief when it comes to banal writing styles?
Another ridiculous custom are writers who believe compiling a list makes for a well-written article.
It is seen over and over again and, after working tirelessly to rid the newspaper of such junk, have conceded a bit, as a way of providing a contrast to readers to see content-driven pieces juxtaposed with, what is essentially, a list.
These articles all look the same, the opening paragraph will explain the scenario – a government agency indicated a number of towns and cities were affecting by an illness, sports teams qualified for a tournament, or dignitaries gathered for an event – with the subsequent content solely comprised of a list pertaining to the subject, then “the end.”
Taking the examples presented:
A government agency has reported cases of an illness in various local government units across region. City 1 reported the most cases with this many patients; then proceed to list, literally, every city or town until the last one that listed one case.
Eight teams qualified for the quarterfinals of this tournament. The teams competing are; then proceed to list every teams and, in many cases, include the rosters of each team. This undoubtedly stems from a writer desperate to submit a lengthy article but is severely lacking in content.
Leaders from across the country gathered for a summit in Manila. They include; and the list goes on to name every single individual present – even unrecognizable figures. Sometimes, it is believed it is the writer just wanting to present a façade of awareness and, by throwing in the lesser-known figures, they hope it makes readers believe they are “in the know.”
Have also witnessed reporters making the same monotonous lists on broadcast news. During last year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, where over 20 world leaders gathered in Manila, many correspondents, instead of offering reports that noted the prominent names that greeted President Rodrigo Duterte, they listed EVERY SINGLE PERSON that showed up.
Typically, one would likely name US President Donald Trump, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Burmese Minister of Foreign Affairs Suu Kyi, and perhaps figures of regional prominence like Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but many reporters offered excessively long lists. Not sure if it was the aforementioned intentions of putting on an impression of being knowledgeable; perhaps, in a broadcast sense, to show viewers they can pronounce all the names, another method of showing how “well-informed” they are.
As is the case with many of the criticisms of local media, writing for a newspaper seems to be less about providing information to the public and more about promoting one’s abilities – even if they appear to be lacking. Some believe repeating their points will have readers nodding their heads in agreement as they are captivated by their words; while other think by providing lists and name-dropping, readers will be impressed by the reporter and believe they are “experts.” However, echoing statements and transcribing lists do neither, what they really do is show laziness./WDJ

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