“Write as We Might Speak If We Spoke Extremely Well”

From Simple & Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers, by Jacques Barzun:

The whole world will tell you, if you care to ask, that your words should be simple & direct. Everybody likes the other fellow’s prose plain. It has even been said that we should write as we speak. That is absurd, as we know from the courtroom dialogue. Most speaking is not plain or direct, but vague, clumsy, confused, and wordy. This last fault appears in every transcript from a taped conversation, which is why we say “reduce to writing.” What is meant by the advice to write as we speak is to write as we might speak if we spoke extremely well.

Sorry, New York Times—Tom Hanks Wants to be Ben Bradlee, Not Abe Rosenthal

Hanks, Streep to star in Pentagon Papers film

Real life editors: Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times, Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post.

Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg are joining forces for a drama about the fourth estate called  “The Post,” which chronicles The Washington Post’s legal battle to publish the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971.

—Reliable Source column in The Washington Post, March 7, 2017

Laurels and more to the New York Times for what may be the story of the decade—the acquisition of the Pentagon papers, the painstaking examination of the documents, the breaking of the story, and the successful court fight to lift the noose of prior government restraint.

The Gridiron—Lots of Journalists, No President Trump, Not Many Veterans

Gridiron member Andrea Mitchell and husband Alan Greenspan at the 2015 dinner. Photo from The Georgetowner.

Washington’s Gridiron Club, with its 65 journalist members, held its 132nd anniversary dinner Saturday night with 620 journalists, media executives, lawmakers, and administration officials crowded into a DC hotel ballroom for the dinner and musical show.

I attended three Gridiron dinners and what always seemed most memorable were the journalists in white-tie, looking like extras in a movie about the Gilded Age, and the Marine Corps Band playing the anthems of the four service branches. When the anthem of each service is played, those who have served in that branch stand at attention.

Sometimes You Can Fix a Problem in Washington by Just Pulling the Plug

At an informal luncheon reunion yesterday of about 15 Washingtonian staffers from the 1980s there were margaritas, Mexican food, and lots of talk about the good old days. My favorite story was about Phil Merrill, the magazine’s publisher back then. He had bought the magazine in 1979 and it’s still in the family with his daughter, Cathy Merrill Williams, now the publisher.

Washington Post Columnists Call for More Reporting, Less Punditry

Columnist Margaret Sullivan wants more digging, less glib pontificating.

Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza recently told Post readers that his message to Post reporters is that the best way to combat President Trump’s allegations that the media is the enemy is “to simply put our heads down and do our jobs. We aren’t the story. The story is the story.” Cillizza delivered his get-to-work-reporting advice to fellow Post journalists in his Post column, written when not making appearances on MSNBC television, doing podcasts, or making speeches.

Does Donald Trump Really Want to Be the Nation’s Top Editor?

To go with the social media hysteria about President Trump trying to become the next Adolf Hitler, here, from an essay, “The Tyrant as Editor,” by Holly Case for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is how President Trump’s anti-media-fake-news campaign may owe more to the editorial instincts of Joseph Stalin.

The editor is the unseen hand with the power to change meaning and message, even the course of history. Back when copy-proofs were still manually cut, pasted, and photographed before printing, a blue pencil was the instrument of choice for editors because blue was not visible when photographed. The editorial intervention was invisible by design.

Writers at Work: Escape the Keyboard—It Has No Spirit or Soul

J.K. Rowling and her black pen.

Do you write by hand or on a computer?

J. K. Rowling: “I still like writing by hand. Normally I do a first draft using pen and paper, and then do my first edit when I type it onto my computer. For some reason, I much prefer writing with a black pen than a blue one.”
By Barnard Law Collier

Write your serious work by hand. Escape the keyboard. Keyboards have no spirit and no soul. Your handwriting has both. Penmanship is the sport of the mind. Benjamin Franklin, the first great American journalist autobiographer, wrote about how he copied the handwriting of people whose traits and character he admired and thus he absorbed his heroes’ best qualities.

Journalists and Money: First Do Good Journalism, Then Talk About It

David Fahrenthold: Washington Post reporter, CNN contributor, CAA speaker.

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold had a remarkable 2016, impressing Post readers and fellow journalists with his investigative reporting on the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Fahrenthold didn’t bring down Trump the way Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped force President Richard Nixon out of office in 1974 but Farenthold is a favorite to win a Pulitzer Prize, as the Post did for Watergate, when the awards are announced April 10.

John Leo on Journalese, or Why English Is the Second Language of the Fourth Estate

Much of the difficulty of mastering journalese stems from its slight overlap with English. Imposing, for instance, when used to describe a male, retains its customary English meaning, but when used in reference to a female, it means “battle-axe.” In journalese, the word chilling has the very solemn task of modifying scenario (in nuclear weapons stories), reminder (in crime stories) and effect (any story on AIDS or the imminent repeal of the First Amendment), whereas in English it is merely something one does with white wine.

Texas Monthly Is Changing. Deal With It—the Changes Might Help It Survive

At the beginning in 1973.

Yesterday the Columbia Journalism Review generated controversy with a piece titled New editor in chief takes Texas Monthly in a ‘lifestyle’ direction. The opening grafs:

The new editor in chief of Texas Monthly plans to pull back from the kind of longform and political coverage that gave the title a national profile to focus instead on lifestyle coverage, website enhancements, and a live-events business.