Tag Archives: Journalism

Where’s the Justice?

What has happened to the Justice System in the USA? I’m tired of seeing big criminal trials become media circus fiascoes. The media coverage in big trials creates a business out of crime. Criminals can profit from victims’ suffering, by selling interviews, photos, books, film rights later. Spectators following the trials become addicted and obsessed by the twisted circumstances. Confidential info is exposed, and can lead to a wrong verdict. Stop the madness!

The 1995 O. J. Simpson murder trial was the first big televised court case, a real disgusting display of a media circus. Because of so much publicity before and during the trial, it’s likely that a guilty man was not convicted, although he was held liable at the 1997 civil trial. It is estimated that 100 million people worldwide watched or listened to the verdict and $40 billion of work productivity was lost from employees following the case. Some evidence against Simpson was not presented at the trial because the witnesses sold their stories to the media. Other prominent media circus cases are the trials of Gary Gilmore (1977), Martha Stewart (2004), and Casey Anthony (2010). Dr. Ronald B. Standler, an Attorney in Massachusetts, has a very compelling essay against Pretrial Publicity.

Who’s to blame? The Media mostly, publishers of Television, Newspapers, Magazines, and Books. These big trials bring them big profits, and they spend more time and effort on them than more important news. The history of ‘Yellow Journalism‘ in the USA goes back to the late 1800’s.

I remember when cameras and photos were forbidden in court, only artists were permitted to draw sketches. How did we go from that to live television!? Let’s bring back some dignity to the Justice System by keeping TV out of the Courtroom. Stop the madness!

Writing Styles: The Elements of Style vs AP Stylebook

In the world of journalism, there are sets of standards to provide uniformity in style and formatting of documents, called style guides. In the United States there are more than 15 different style guides, each with its own unique rules. Two of the most widely utilized are the ‘The Elements of Style’ and the ‘Associated Press Stylebook.’

The Elements of Style (1918), aka Strunk & White, by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is a small and simple guide for writing. The original version was only forty-three pages, but has grown to 105 pages, four editions, and has sold more than 12 million copies. It promotes efficient use of words, with recommendations like “make every word tell”, “vigorous writing is concise” and “omit needless words.” It also suggests to “prefer the standard to the offbeat”, a ‘stick to what works’ approach, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’. The book tells writers to have the proper mind-set, that they write to please themselves, and that they aim for “one moment of felicity.” Criticism of Strunk and White has focused on their misunderstanding of what constitutes the passive voice, and their advocation of popularly established usages, such as the split infinitive and the use of ‘which’ in a restrictive relative clause.

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is the gold standard of journalism style guides. From its start in 1953, the publication focused on “where the wire set a specific style” and is referenced for grammar, punctuation and principles and practices of reporting. It is usually updated every year, and is now on its 43rd edition, at 416 pages. It features an alphabetically ordered list of guides to capitalization, abbreviation, spelling, numerals and usage. The stylebook is organized into sections: Business Guidelines, Sports Guidelines and Style, Guide to Punctuation, Briefing on Media Law, Photo Captions and Bibliography.

I find it intriguing that scholars of letters obsess so much on the minutia of journalistic techniques, although I am not a professional writer, so I don’t have the same appreciation as some. In comparing these two style guides, I would say that each has its own particular purpose. The Elements of Style seems more suited for an author of novels, or perhaps someone who just wants some practical, simple writing advice. In contrast, The AP Stylebook is geared towards writers in the businesses of newspapers, magazines, television broadcasting and public relations.

To me (imho), good writing doesn’t need to be 100% grammatically correct, or follow an industry standard. It just needs to come from the heart of a person who wants to create thoughts and ideas that stimulate the senses and imagination of the readers.