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With this level of self-belief, it’s surprising to know that a certain amount of soul-searching has gone on of late about the condition of modern American journalism. But no one does introspection like American journalists. They devote acres of space, trillions of bytes and thousands of hours of air time to pondering the state of “the media”. It’s less navel-gazing; more self-proctology.

Lordy Be American journos are self satisfied. It’s the major thing I have a problem with writing for folk over there.

Years back there was a very good Boris column on the experience of writing for the NYT. Worth digging out if anyone can find it.

A personal experience – I did a 700 word piece for the Washington Post once (bastards still haven’t paid me) and I ended up with three editors making comments about how this could be changed, that comma, this colon etc. Just nonsense – the equivalent experience for any UK paper is that the subs do that and you find out when you read the published version. But the Americans wanted to actually discuss – and the three had different ideas of course – each specific change. They really couldn’t grasp my Englishness in “Sure, change it to house style, have fun.”

That’s just a symptom of course, American journalists really, really, don’t grasp it’s just a craft and the connection with tomorrow’s fish wrapper.

9 thoughts on “Snigger”

  1. American journalists level of self-belief pales in comparison with many of the individuals writing comments beneath Times’ articles these days. What is it with these left-of-centre Remainer types?

  2. Tim

    I also admire your sanguine approach.

    In my experience in pieces I’ve written for the press, the problem with ceding content control is that they get edited by barely literate fvckwits and can become at best grammatically incorrect or worse incoherent or plain wrong. It’s not the editor who takes the flak for that, but the writer.

  3. I used to work for a company that did inspections on documents. >75% of every inspection meeting was to do with grammar, punctuation and word choice. Because no-one wanted to come to the meeting without a list of changes that showed they’d put the time in reading the document concerned. Also, giving a highly technical document to a marketing/sales wonk was never going to generate anything useful. But we did it anyway.

    It all seemed like a massive waste of time and effort. Eventually it was abandoned because even management got fed up with it.

  4. I once wrote a letter to a local rag about a case where two men almost drowned at a beach and the police and coastguard, summoned by phone, didn’t even drop by to see how the fellows and their rescuers were. I made a practical suggestion on how to improve matters “next time”.

    The buggers edited the letter slightly and used it as their front page lead. So I AM A JOURNALIST!

    (I did try a bit of student journalism as a fresher and discovered that being funny in print is no easy task.)

  5. @Steve Crook. Have had sort of the same experience, but those two companies had things set up right:

    Engineering/production produced manuals/technical sheets, which were reviewed by an Intern whose sole job it was to check/correct for grammar and spelling in dutch and english. Nothing More on pain of Pain..

    Sales/PR wrote their own stuff, which got sent to the same Intern for the same processing.
    Their output then got reviewed and edited by Engineering/Production to make sure their wibble was at least factually correct and something resembling reality.

    Besides the bonus of huffy and butthurt Sales/PR types, it made for company reputations that their stuff indeed did what was in the brochures and steady sales. Win-Win.

  6. The worst thing about American journals and journalists is the tedious fucking length at which they twat on. A Hong Kong blogger I follow linked to a (snotty and sneery) review of two books on a website called The Baffler*. The ‘review’ was more than 4,000 words of self-indulgent undergraduate wank, replete with all the usual racial neuroses and written fundamentally out of jealousy and spite.

    *don’t google, for heaven’s sake, don’t read it. Just reading the article titles will set the blood pressure off.

  7. @Grikath

    It has been my policy throughout my working life to have anything important reviewed by at leat two people

    Someone knwoledgeable to check technical accuracy and completeness

    Someone who knows nothing about the subject to see if they can udnerstand it, check for verbiage, cliches and tell me what the aim of the document is (and whther it does it)

    Always worked well for me

    Currently dealing with a council on financial matters relating to my MIL – they havent done either. I am not an expert in the subject of care home finance and benefits but I can spot inconsistency, mind-numbing boilerplate (mostly irrelvant) and basic admin errors (eg sign page 14 when its 15 and they are un-numbered anyway…..)

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