04 February 2007

The rules of journalism

A blogger withe twee name of Sans Serif (or is it sans serif?) has come up with 12 and a half rules to be a good journalist. Interesting and amusing as they may be, they aren't really rules so much as slogans or aspirations.

Maybe it is the way they are billed that suggests this. After all, what is the difference between "Chase Your Dream" and "Do What You Love"?

In among this laudable but probably useless stuff – it is after all saying that it takes a particular personality type to be a journalist – there is also the odd practical tip of real value. I particularly like the suggestion "Don’t Be The Loyal Member Of Any Party, Group, Club, NGO". In effect, this is saying be a sceptic.

That advice is also a key to the difference between journalists an writers, and why it is hard to be both. Writers can use their ability to string words together to good effect, to persuade readers to buy a line.

Interestingly, sans serif's rules say nothing on technical things, like learning how to write or to sell articles, something that you do even if you are not a freelance journalist. No reason why rules should cover that sort of territory. It is just that this is the sort of question asked by people who want to get into the business.

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