Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Make Readers See

It's not easy getting busy people to read long news stories.

So make it worth their time.

Make readers join you in solving a mystery, in sharing a vicitim's pain, in exposing an outrage, in puzzling over what makes the powerful tick. Make them wonder if there isn't a better way to solve problems that threaten their safety, lighten their wallets or disturb their peace.

You show rather than tell. Make readers sense the mystery, feel the outrage, smell the danger, hear the disturbance, sting from loss.

It's not easy to write pictures into readers heads. It take just the right words, and less is usually more. It takes pacing (short sentences, like short breaths, shows tension) and a deft hand on the zoom lens (zoom in to focus closely on an individual example; zoom out to show a problem's widespread effect). It takes an ear for the sounds of words that click together to make an emotional effect.

You'll probably never do it well unless you read journalists who do it well, journalists like Jim Sheeler, Julia Keller, Kim Murphy, Walt Bogdanich, Abigail Goldman and Nancy Cleeland.

They'll make it worth your time.

Got a great news writer you'd like others to read?

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