Friday, September 01, 2006

Letter, Response

Yes, I spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing lame public officials, haranguing wishy-washy judges, and skewering sociopathic criminal scum. But occasionally I have something nice to say.

A recent Pioneer Press article caught my eye, not so much for the content, but for the way the article was written. After scanning untold crime-related writings over the past couple of years for this blog, I had come to the conclusion that many stories read as if the reporter was writing as he was driving, late on deadline, and had just spilled coffee on his pants.

In other words, sloppy.

How many times have you read a crime reporting, thought that it didn't make sense, and blamed yourself for missing something?

Well, don't blame yourself. If you don't understand what's written, it's the reporter's fault.

All of that is a lead-in to my real objective here - to point out a well-written crime story, my acknowledgement of that fact to the reporter, and his response:

From: Rambix
Sent: 9/1/06 6:46 AM
Subject: Article

Mr. Hanners,

I like the way this article was written (Robber sentenced for attacking clerk) - clear, concise, informative, and with interesting detail such as the description of the judge's demeanor.

In a time when too many stories seem to be rushed and consequently not written very well, the ones that are good stand out.

Just a note of appreciation.

And here is Mr. Hanners' polite response:

Thank you for your kind note. You're right in that much of what we wind up writing these days is rushed. It is due, in large part, to the fact so many papers -- the Pioneer Press among them -- are short-staffed. I'm happy to report there may be some changes coming in that regard in our shop, however. The new owners seem to have gone on a hiring binge, which is refreshing after so many years of reductions under the previous owners.

The "rushed" writing also stems from the fact that in our attempts to be hyper-objective, we've taken much of the color (and with it, reality) out of our reportage of everyday events. The writing becomes very formulaic, and that soon becomes the standard. We complain about declining readership, but as anyone who has walked into a busy Barnes & Noble at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday knows, people haven't stopped reading. They've just stopped reading newspapers because the writing doesn't grab them like good literature. And it should.

I'll step down from my soapbox now....

We do appreciate it when readers note our attempts to describe the subtleties and nuances in everyday events, such as a sentencing.

Again, thanks for writing.
The interesting part of his response is that he agrees with my observations about the sloppy reporting. Even more interesting is that he says reporters are striving to be hyper-objective. Maybe they are at the Pioneer Press, but I'm not so sure I buy that for reporters in general (see Anti-Strib).

And the final thing I noticed is that I'm not sure he knew I write a crime blog. I didn't point it out in my email to him, but I hyper-linked my name. Not that it matters, but he's a reporter after all!

Anyway, I appreciate his thoughtful reply