Archive for January 2008

Objectivity – achieving the impossible

January 22, 2008

The concept of objectivity is controversial in the field of journalism. This is because it’s impossible to write with 100% objectivity.

A friend of mine attempted, as her senior project, to write a completely objective newsletter. She then surveyed a sample audience to see if she had managed her goal. She hadn’t – though she got an A on the project anyway.

 Why? Because even the most basic of news involves entirely too many facts to include everything there is to know about a subject. Writers choose what to include and what not to include. This inevitably gives the article a slant. The idea is to make the slant as un-noticeable as possible when dealing in news. But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Even if you take a fairly objective source, say CNN, and look at an article almost completely made up of fact, like one on the recent FED slash of interest rates, there is a slant. The empathizes here is on how the cut is the biggest in 24 years – and how more cuts are expected. Surely, that’s not all there is to say about the cuts. When discussed the same topic, they focused on how it would effect YOU – another slant. Even though both articles are about the same thing – the FED cuts – they approach the topic from different angles, different slants.

The difference, of course, between these and something like blogs on investment are how obvious the slant is. Blogs or opinion pieces also allow others to comment, and open up discussion on the facts.

Despite their differences in the level of objectivity, none of the above articles are completely objective. This is why objectivity is so controversial. If someone ever manages to WRITE with 100% objectivity, then who would want to read it?

Writing is….

January 22, 2008

There are two phrases up for debate this evening. “Good writing is Good writing,” and “writing is thinking.”

First, is “good writing good writing” no matter what form it’s in?

I think so. Good writing is writing that you can form a connection with. It’s words, carefully selected and strung together in such a way that you have to catch your breath when you’re finished. Good writing is the ultimate art form. Where painting shows you an image, and sculpture shows you a likeness, writing can take you to another place or time. It transports you, showing you both the image and the likeness. Whether it’s good poetry, good journalism or good fiction, good writing teaches, it holds the potential to change. It creates in your mind something that wasn’t there before.

So, is writing thinking then? Good writing certainly has the potential to make you think; and writing well requires thinking. Lauren Kessler, in the latest edition of Writer’s Digest, says writing is thinking – according to her the “hard part” of writing, the actual work, is thinking. The research is the easy part “the hard part [is] the hours, days, weeks and months of searching for and finding the right words to tell the story[…] the hard part [is] being still, looking out the window.”

But is that reason enough to say writing is thinking? Thinking is definitely a major component of writing. Without it, writing would be meaningless. Kessler also writes “writing is thinking made manifest.” In that instance I agree, writing is thinking – but thinking is not writing. It isn’t an A = B equation; and I think we need to keep that forefront in our minds as writers. Every thought we have is not fit for the page; before it can be put down in ink it should be thought through, squeezed, wrung out like a wet towel until no more drops come out of it. Only when we have examined our own thoughts from every angle can we create good writing – writing that transports you; writing that changes you; writing that connects.

Writing for the Media: Post #1 – It’s All About Me

January 15, 2008

This spring I am taking a class on Writing for the Media. Part of the class is keeping a blog – rather then creating a whole new blog, since it’s topic related, I’m going to keep the ‘class assigned blog posts’ on here.

This first post will help you with a little of my history and might let you get to know me a little better.

I’ve always been interested in media. If you wanted to be literal, about the time I was five my father taught me to read using JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I’ve been hooked ever since.

In highschool (I went to Newburgh Free Academy), we were divided up into ‘academies,’ and I was in the Communications Academy. I got really into Video editing and digital media. I liked the nitty-gritty; getting the details right; making sure if someone was walking down steps, and in one shot I did a cut that ended with them on their right foot that the next clip showed them lifting their right foot off the ground and stepping down with the left. In addition to video, I took a couple of writing classes. Senior year I had a woman who should go down as one of the best teachers in history. Mrs. Aber taught me grammar.

That might suprise you a little; that I didn’t know grammar until my senior year in highschool, but that’s just a statement on public schools today. Grammar is the nitty-gritty of writing, and without it language wouldn’t make sense.

When I had to choose a college, number one of my list of important things was that the school had BOTH a film and a writing program. That’s how I ended up at Manhattanville (there were a few other factors too- something about have a real castle on campus). Time and experience (my uncle works in video producing, I took a couple of classes and worked with a professor on an independent film) showed me film wasn’t a perfect fit. My writing classes, however, I really enjoyed.

I took fiction workshop, poetry workshop, creative writing, journalism, and narrative writing. This semester will add writing for the media and journalism II to that list.

Somewhere along the line someone mentioned Pace’s Publishing program to me – and that they do a joint degree with Manhattanville. The dual program allows you to get your masters in five years. I’m doing it in four. This year is my third year at Manhattanville and I’ll graduate this May, get a job in Publishing, and start grad school full time at Pace in the fall (all Pace grad classes are night classes, so they won’t interfere with a job).

The joint program has allowed me to take financial aspects of publishing and professional editing at Pace last semester. This semester I’m taking book production and design.

The ‘BIG’ goal? I’d like to work in book publishing and write on writing and publishing for magazines. Last semester I didn an internship with Columbia University Press. This semester I’d like to get at least one article published in a print magazine. I’m working on a guest post for Lindsey Pollak’s Career blog. I think that’s a step in the ‘write’ direction.

Hopefully this writing for the media class will be another step.

E-book Standards

January 2, 2008

I’d fallen a little behind in reading my PWDaily e-newsletter, but I spent today catching up.

Back in September the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) officially standardized Open Publication Structure 2.0 and it’s “.epub” format.

In October, Hachette Book Group USA became the first trade publisher to officially adopt the e-book format for all of its e-book content. Since then Overdrive, a digital distributor of e-books and other media, has announced its support for the ‘.epub’ format. Also on the bandwagon is LibreDigital and VitalSource Technologies.

According to the IDPF website, “allows publishers to produce and send a single digital publication file through distribution and offers consumers interoperability (meaning they work with mulitple systems including Adobe, Sony, Amazon/MobiPocket, ViatalSource and others) between software/hardware for unencrypted reflowable digital books and other publications.”

Is this the way of the future? The epub-s allow reflowable text, they work with several of the most common e-readers, and allow publishers who adopt the standard to publish one file-format instead of many.

I haven’t tried to read an e-book downloaded in .epub format yet, but I will be interested in seeing how well it works.