How Reading a Writer Is Better Than Listening to a Talker

51fhialw7ylFrank Deford’s book, I’d Know That Voice Anywhere, is a collection of his commentaries on National Public Radio. In the foreward to the book, he writes about the experience of listening versus reading:

…I am intrigued at this proposition that what I have spoken/voiced for the ear is here seeking to catch the approval of the eye. It’s unusual, maybe even risky, to attempt such a particular trans-communication.

…Nowadays, there’s probably more crossover headed in the other direction, written words being given a second exposure by a vocal professional—books on tape. Myself, once I left my mother’s lap, I’ve never heard a book read to me that I found as enjoyable as when I read it myself.

Editors at Work: Having the Right Kind of Meetings

By Jack Limpert

A mid-level executive complained to me yesterday about the hour-long meetings of 15 or 20 people she’s often forced to sit through where a top executive does most of the talking. As an editor, I pulled together lots of meetings. Here’s what I told her I had learned:

Small is best. I had lots of one-on-one meetings but to come up with good ideas I found meetings of three, four, or five were best. The virtue of having four or five was it allowed a mix of staff to take part. Pull together two or three top people and several mid-level and lower-level people. It brings in fresh perspectives and helps identify talent: That kid working as a fact-checker is really smart.

Time Warner Again Seems a Perfect Match—How’d That Kind of Merger Work Out the First Time They Tried It?

AT&T to Buy Time Warner in $85.4 Billion Cash, Stock Deal

AT&T Inc. agreed to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion, forming a telecommunications and media empire that will own many of the movies and TV shows it pumps through to subscribers of its wireless, internet and pay-TV services.

“This is a perfect match of two companies with complementary strengths who can bring a fresh approach to how the media and communications industry works,” AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in the statement.
Sixteen years ago Time Warner was involved in another deal—a perfect match—that looked to remake the media landscape. This excerpt from a 2013 post  suggests that such perfect matches may turn out to be anything but. That one, with AOL, ultimately cost Time Warner stockholders about 100 billion dollars.

When the “bad” meanings of words drive out the “good” meanings

Atomic Flyswatters

In casual speech, there is a tendency to overstatement, and unfortunately the tendency carries over to writing….The tendency is to use powerful words to convey quite moderate meanings, to unleash atomic weapons to kill flies….

In speech, where this kind of misuse is more common than in writing, we use the strongest words of the language with abandon. A play is terrific (no idea of terror) or it is dreadful (no idea of dread), a restaurant is fantastic (no idea of unreality) or it is horrible (no idea of horror). The trouble with this practice is that the “bad” meanings of words tend to drive out the “good” meanings. It’s enough to make strong words weak.

The New York Times Sometimes Stumbles Through Washington Like a Visiting High School Student

By Jack Limpert

The New York Times has posted a story, “The Dish on the Washington Power Dining Scene,” that reads like something written by a Wisconsin high school student visiting DC and discovering that two ambassadors from small countries were seen dining at an expensive DC restaurant and that must be power dining in the nation’s capital. That may be power dining in Milwaukee but in Washington those two ambassadors are on the power scale just below a couple of reserve lineman from the Washington Redskins.

The Virtues of Short Words

By Jack Limpert

The Economist once ran a very clever piece, “Out With the Long,” about why short words are best.

As an editor, I shortened a lot of stories but didn’t like to change a writer’s words. I cut paragraphs, sentences, and many adjectives, trying to make stories that went 50 miles an hour go at least 65. I always thought the hed, deck, pull quotes, and art got the reader into a story and you kept the reader by keeping the story moving.

When a Journalist Gets Sued by Someone Like Donald Trump

Donald Trump Threatens to
Sue New York Times Over
Sexual Harassment Report
By Jack Limpert

As lawyers for Donald Trump threaten lawsuits, here’s some background on how being sued affects editors and writers.

Enter someone else’s life: Write stories that put the reader in touch with a part of themselves they didn’t know existed

By Jack Limpert

imagesThe stage version of Mark Haddon’s book,  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was a hit in London and New York and is now playing in Washington.

It’s the story of a young boy, Christopher Boone, who goes out to his backyard late one night and discovers that his neighbor’s dog has been killed with a garden fork. It quickly becomes clear that Christopher sees the world in unusual ways, the ways a child with what resembles Asperger’s syndrome, a kind of autism, might see it.

Massive Cuts! Unprecedented Turmoil! How Did This Happen to Newspapers?

By Jack Limpert

Robert Sanchez has an interesting piece, “How Massive Cuts Have Remade the Denver Post,” in 5280, the city magazine of Denver.

The story’s deck: “Journalists at the state’s largest newspaper once wondered how much more they’d have to endure. Now they’re finding out.”

The nut graf: “Newspapers across the country have been dealing with unprecedented turmoil for most of this century, but Post staffers can be excused for feeling like the past year has been exceptional for the pain they have had to endure. In addition to buyouts and layoffs and a substantial newsroom restructuring, this past March journalists at the Post saw their beloved editor, Gregory L. Moore, abruptly resign amid rumors he refused corporate orders to cut more jobs from an already gutted staff.”
How did the newspaper business get into this much trouble?

Finding Poetry in Plays, Movies, and Journalism

By Jack Limpert

unnamed-1While working as a magazine editor, I had a sentence typed on a small square of paper and tacked up on the bulletin board near my desk:

Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution, some clear meaning, which it perhaps never finds.

It’s spoken at the beginning of the play, I Never Sang for My Father. A middle-aged son is returning home to see his father, a difficult man nearing the end of his life, and the son is giving the audience a sense of what’s coming. When the play, written by Robert Anderson, opened on Broadway in 1968, the son was played by Hal Holbrook, the father by Alan Webb.