Friday, June 24

The Effective Lead Paragraph: Exhibit 47

The Sins of Judith Miller (Russ Baker, Alternet):
As a media critic, I spend what feels like far too much time trying to persuade people that most reporters are not sloppy, agenda-driven, biased, or lazy. But it seems that whenever I get up on my high horse, back into the news rides Judith Miller.

Zing! The choice of "rides" as the verb in the last clause is nice, it resonates with "high horse."

Miller is a publicity nightmare for the Times, which has a lot better to offer: people writing about obscure developments in the Bronx with great precision and empathy. Why not send her off to write a book on the experience of surviving a year on the world's bleakest continent, Antarctica?

If I had to choose between the lazy reporter and the agenda-driven reporter, I'd take the lazy one every time. A truly lazy reporter follows the standards & practices to the tee because it keeps the editor from kicking it back, making more work. A truly lazy reporter is never sloppy because sloppy gets you fired, which means having to look for a job, which is a lot more work than actually having a job, usually. The lazy reporter lacks ambition and so is just as happy covering a kitten in a tree or the deliberations of OASIS as a brutal celebrity sex slaying with a book deal and spot on Geraldo at the end of it. Writing books give you carpal tunnel syndrome. The lazy journo likes to go home at five.

Long live the lazy. It's important to remember that journalism is a job, not a crusade. A lazy reporter doesn't care what anybody does with the facts that get dug up. The lazy reporter does the essential digging only and does not ponder the cosmic meaning of those facts. Shit happens, whereupon more shit happens, occasionally but not normally having to do with the first shit that happened. Time marches on. Empires rise and fall. Learning to type in junior high sure has paid off.

Ich bin ein lazy sod.

Runner up for the lead graf of the week: "Newspapers are cockroaches." (Net to Newspapers: Drop Dead, in Businessweek). The prosody works very nicely: two dactyls separated by the one-syllable main verb. Would fit a 5/4 time signature nicely.


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