On Friday afternoon, i was metaphorically skipping away from the Scotsman building for the last time having secured the inclusion of my museum piece in the following day’s edition. After a three day informal placement stint on Holyrood Road which started out as a nonchalant exercise in jounalistic make believe but ended up, on Friday afternoon, with me dashing up and down the stairs of the University’s music faculty in full reporter mode, i was actually going to get my name in print.
The initially mooted 600 word page leader complete with photograph was downscaled, but i was still asked to beef up my initial 250 words to 400 and i gladly obliged. Turning a few words into many has never been a difficult task for me.
And so it was, when i feverishly thumbed my way to page 13 of today’s Scotsman, that i all but choked on my indignation to discover that said article had been reduced from 400 words to some 225, and that both style and content had been heavily reworked. Such was my distracted state while taking leave of the newsdesk team that i had not fully absorbed the fact of this last minute editorial change, and i took the foreshortening much harder than i had any right to.
It was a salutary, if bitter lesson in the harsher realities of the trade. Doubtless a paid and fully accredited member of the newsdesk team would have had more input into the reworking of their output.However, new stories emerge all the time, their relative significance shifts constantly as details accumulate or anticipated leads wither, and in a world as dynamic as this, substance will always triumph over style.
The constrictions of page layout are a further telling reflection of the industry; advertisements are the first items to be inserted and all remaining content must be trimmed, hacked or stretched to fit. In such an environment, a writerly “voice” is a luxury that the imperatives of timely story breaking does not need.Error (ERROR_PLATFORM_FAILURE)
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1 As my eye roved disconsolately over page 13, i noted the story which, in this case proved my undoing and deprived me of the 600 words together with picture of 18th Century French hurdy-gurdy which seemed in prospect for a large part of yesterday. “Boeing jet is holed in accident as it prepares for take-off at Scots airport”.
Of all the days for some dozy tow truck driver to be over-zealous with his pedal foot, he chooses the day i’m poised to make my journalistic debut. What chance has a static collection of musical instruments against such a hairy tale of near disaster. Oh well, back to the storyboard…..