Aug. 6th, 2016

inferiorwit: (pony)
In anticipation of there suddenly being way more Superman fic out there, I figured I’d put together a tip sheet for people who want to write about Clark doing journalism for a living. This is nowhere near an exhaustive guide, just a quick rundown of where I keep seeing writers slip up.

Source: two generations of my family worked in newspapers and I considered journalism as a career before Postmedia made it way less appealing. If anyone has any corrections or stuff they’d like to add, please do.

general stuff:
  • I fell down a research hole on the DC wiki and still can’t figure out what Clark’s major is. It’s not necessarily journalism. There’s no one degree that qualifies you to be a journalist.
    • when my dad was hiring for his papers, he usually preferred English majors over journalism majors, because “the English majors were better writers.” This is probably not empirically true.
  • Comics and movies usually portray Perry White as the autocratic overlord of The Daily Planet, making all the editorial decisions, responsible for hundreds of employees, yet only interacting with the same three or four all the time. In reality, a lot of what Perry White does in the comics gets delegated out to a small army of section editors and assignment editors and managing editors and look there’s a lot of editors, okay? The EIC is the boss of the whole operation, but he doesn’t spend the whole day bellowing orders from his office because if he did, he wouldn’t get anything else done.
  • Print newspapers get most of their revenue from ads. There can be significant pressure not to piss off the advertisers, especially these days.
  • Some newspapers have embraced the digital age. Some haven’t. Some use paywalls on their websites. Some don’t.
  • The most unbelievable thing in Man of Steel was that a newspaper in the year of our lord 2013 had that many employees and was hiring.
writing about writing
  • Some journalists are better at reporting than writing. Some are better at writing than reporting.
  • Your average news article is structured so that all the most important details are at the beginning of the story, with the least important details at the end. If fiction stories start with “it was a dark and stormy night” and end with “the butler did it,” then news stories start with “the butler did it” and end with “it was a dark and stormy night.”
  • News articles are supposed to be objective. Personal opinions are usually confined to editorials or columns.
  • Because news articles are supposed to be objective, they will usually strive for “balance.” If a story involves a controversial issue, the writer will often seek out contrasting opinions so the reader can see both sides of the issue and make up their own mind.
    • This can sometimes lead to “balance bias,” where the most seemingly benign statement in an article is contrasted with the ramblings of some yahoo for the sake of fairness.
  • Articles are usually quite short–less than 1000 words. Longer, more in-depth features happen either because the issue in question requires it, or because the feature is on a topic considered “timeless” and isn’t subject to the same kind of deadline pressure.
hip newspaper lingo
  • Art is a photo or diagram or whatever used to accompany a story. Pretty pictures used to catch the eye and illustrate the article.
  • A reporter’s beat is the subject that they usually cover, such as crime or politics. A reporter who’s an expert on a particular subject is a correspondent.
  • The big unwieldy newspapers are broadsheets. Small commuter papers are tabloids. Broadsheets are usually considered more prestigious and reliable than tabloids.
  • Copy is any written material. Copy editors edit copy, make sure there are no legal issues, write headlines, and figure out where to place a story in the newspaper’s layout.
  • Stories will sometimes be under embargo, where they can’t be published until after a certain date or time.
  • If an editor decides not to run a story, that story’s been killed or spiked.
  • The first paragraph of a news article, with all the important details, is called the lede. Deliberately or accidentally placing important details later in the story is called burying the lede.
  • Wire services (commonly shortened to “wire” or “the wire”) are syndication services that provide stories and art to various newspapers (and TV and radio stations) for a fee. Reuters, Associated Press, etc. If you’re a copy editor and you need filler or art or whatever, you grab it off the wire.
movies to watch:
  • All the President’s Men - pretty good look at the realities of investigative reporting (hint: there are a lot of tedious phone calls involved). The filmmakers were so dedicated to accuracy that they had the Washington Post’s garbage shipped in so they could put it in the movie set’s trash cans.
  • The Paper - 24 hours in the life of a New York tabloid. Michael Keaton’s in it. Great look at the day-to-day operation of a newsroom and the relationship between reporters, editors, and the editor-in-chief. Also it’s really goddamn funny.


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