Archive for April, 2013

Writing, or Reporting?

Haven’t you had the experience finding yourself cursing at the end of reading an article or commentary on the paper, only to find nothing more than a literal description of commonly known facts or events?  I am experiencing that again today.  The newspaper column describes the pitfalls of checking into private hospitals in town, resulting in gigantic hospital bills due to the recommendation of private rooms by the medical staff.  The bills are seldom adequately covered by medical insurance and more and more patients end up having a second heart attack the moment they take a glimpse of the six-figures screaming at them.

So I was captivated by this very real and relevant topic and read on.  The article quickly ended advising patients to watch out for such occurrences.  That’s it.  No advice, no suggestions, and no tips for further information.  What’s the big idea of pointing out some commonly known facts and nothing else?

This is robbery, since I think the columnist is paid a fixed fee for regular posts on the paper, and she needs to keep writing to earn her paycheck.  I know it’s a short column, and I shouldn’t be expecting investigative journalism on a paper that is aimed for a 15-minute consumption during subway rides.  Yet, I still want better standards.

I always think there can be various angles to write.  You can offer help, advice and solutions, or if that is too heavy for the lifestyle and entertainment section, write with a viewpoint, or simply, an emotion.  Let the readers understand you.  Let the readers feel for you.  Not everyone will care about it, but at least you are writing something, or some emotional reaction, that is one of a kind.  If I don’t find material, at least I want to see some authenticity.

The best columnists that I have come across offers sincerity, humor, wit, and the willingness to open up for those who enjoy some emotional stimulation through reading.  That takes some skills and practice, but more than anything, the confidence and also the humility to share one’s true viewpoints.  It’s harder than you think.  Expressing coherently a relatable thought on a short column proves to be a lot more challenging than it seems.  No wonder I’m seeing so many ridiculous columns by pseudo-reporters, instead of the true columnists that I have expected them to be.

Not everyone may agree with me of course, but I’ll admit that I’m looking for passion when I read.  It may not exactly be chicken soup, but at least it can be a small piece of chocolate, for the soul.


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