Story telling

Why are you grumpy?

No it’s not menopause. This is purely professional and now , after four years, I am no longer judging
the business journalist of the year award in the Voyager Awards, I am happy to tell you why.

There are some savvy business writers out there – more than you probably suspect. The class of
entries over the past four years improved but could be quite easily divided into a couple of
categories – reportage and investigative or unique stories that were not driven by the daily business
news diary. The quality of writing and/or understanding of the subject matter then usually pointed
to the winner. We had a point scoring system to make sure we were fair.

New Zealand does have a big group of good business reporters, but I wonder how many have run a
business, or understand what they write can have financial implications for a business? A good story
is a good story and should be told. But the story telling needs to be balanced, fair and most of all
accurate.

What happened to the journalistic construct of opening two or three paragraphs to outline the guts
of the story and then the party being investigated having an immediate chance to make a comment
for a par or two followed by a bit of history for the reader’s understanding of relevant background?

These days its mostly all accusation and then way down in the story there might be a
response/rebuttal.

That’s not fair. Research has shown most readers skim the headline, the intro and maybe a part or
two before moving on to another story. For instance, there was one classic story about tax
incentives that after about 24 paragraphs undid its own screaming headline.

A couple of weeks ago I had a journo who told me that I was just spinning the story for my client. He
didn’t bother to reflect that my client’s actions were necessary if he was to be a responsible
company director and remain within solvency laws.

As a journalist of several years I always considered material sent my way by a public relations firm as
a potential story starter. If I thought it had “legs”, I picked up the phone and made the story my own.
There is time – it just needs motion.

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