Feedback for aspiring journalists and the need for new media literacy

I figured I’d share some feedback I received from an editor for a local publication I’ve been freelancing for. It’s general stuff that could be helpful to anyone writing for more newsy papers.

I think I’m a strong writer and most of this critique comes from being a newbie and mostly only writing feature-y pieces for local lifestyle magazines (gotta make that [meager] dough/gain exposure/[insert aphorism]).

Also, I think noticing what perspective the publication you’re writing for writes in is kind of important, oops.

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for working on the men’s health article. You are a good writer and you were able to weave in different perspectives.

There were a couple of things that I wanted to mention.

· We write in the third person, so using second person such as “getting on your treadmill” or “you can take a walk” is something you wouldn’t use.

· Giving advice, as in telling people what to do in your voice is something if you were writing a column as an expert would work, but not as a reporter/journalist where we’re providing unbiased information and using our sources to tell the story. I’ve attached the story here so you can see the changes I made related to those to elements. 

· Transitions: For the most part your transitions were very good, but in places where you’re taking the expert tone can get tricky when you have a source’s quote right after. So the reader wonders who said it, the expert or the writer? And then you question if the writer maintained a distance. Just try to keep in mind we are reporting the news, so we are a step away from it.

See how small things can make a big difference on a reader’s interpretation of the story?

All the advertising and propaganda, that especially floods the internet and masquerades as news, makes these nuances more important than ever. I had a little tirade on Facebook this morning that was, more or less, about trusting what you read on the internet. It began with an almost perfectly reasonable question on a news story I felt worth sharing;

Where are their peer reviewed articles? The links to scientific studies? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (especially fear mongering articles) until there is proof. This story has no scientific backbone.

And then maybe I flipped out a little and posted links to random studies and dug up the author’s credentials. You could say I was tweaked. Here’s an excerpt of my response,

“I wanted to open a dialogue that facilitates research and maybe getting a second perspective. Devil’s advocate, if you will.” I’m all for that when it’s reasonable and not in a ‘question everything trust nothing’ perspective.
People need to start learning how to tell the difference between legitimate news sources and the fake stuff that IS definitely out there and not just assume it’s lies or truth because there is or isn’t a bibliography.
And frankly, with media being pretty much around every corner and on every iWhat-have-you, this kind of literacy needs to start being taught to kids in elementary school.

Or earlier, I’m down for earlier. I started reading around the ages of two or three.

#NewMediaLiteracy kids!

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Oh and for those who may be interested, here is the news story that sparked my tirade,

Here are 8 invented diseases Big Pharma is banking on

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