How To Be A Lousy Journalist

How To Be A Lousy Journalist May 21, 2013

Over at Intercollegiate Review, I have a piece with some helpful journalism tips. Here’s how “How to Be a Really Lousy Journalist for Fun and Profit” begins:

There has never been a better time to consider a career in journalism. Newspapers are thriving, magazines are innovating, online journalism listicles are becoming more substantive, and cable-news talking heads are shouting at holograms.

Journalists are living up to our reputation as the country’s most trusted profession (at least compared to IRS agents and American Airlines customer-service representatives). Whether it’s our nuanced and thoughtful analysis of hot-button topics such as gay marriage or our tenacious coverage of the terrorist attack in Benghazi and Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic in Philadelphia, people know you can count on us to get the story right.

Would you like to succeed in this environment? As a long-time reporter and media critic, I’m happy to share tips on what to do if you want to make it in modern journalism.

Don’t Sweat the Details

Is there a difference between an Evangelical and an evangelist? Who cares? Don’t know the technical reason why Christians celebrate Easter? Will anyone really notice? Do you confuse the author of Hebrews with Paris booksellers? We all do! Whether you’re reporting on important U.S. Supreme Court decisions or how many people died in a terrorist bombing, what’s most important is getting the story first, not getting the story right, particularly under the pressure of a 24-hour news cycle.

Don’t Question Authority

If the powers-that-be suggest that a terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 was the spontaneous and direct result of an unseen YouTube video with junior high school production values, who are you to be skeptical?

If these same authority figures suggest that therefore it’s dangerous for Americans to speak freely, share their religious views, and express their artistic sensibilities however they want, you should probably just join them in calling for restrictions on these First Amendment freedoms.

It’s advice you’ve seen me sarcastically give for years, if you’re a GetReligion reader. But the folks here at GetReligion gave me excellent additional tips to include, and they’re sprinkled throughout.

There were dozens more I could have included. What are your tips for how to be a lousy journalist?

 Image of journalist via Shutterstock.

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5 responses to “How To Be A Lousy Journalist”

  1. I’d add “When you are quoting a self-described Catholic who hasn’t been to confession since their First Communion, is all for married gay women priests and thinks bishops should be done away with and replaced with the LCWR, be sure to always insert the adjective “devout” in your account of them.”

  2. Labeling those who hold orthodox Christian beliefs “intolerant” is so 2000s. They are more appropriately referred to as “haters.” Support this — as well as the notion that Christianity is barbaric — by pulling up Jewish law regarding Sabbath-breaking, cursing, male preference in inheritance, banning women from owning property, etc. Point to those on the fringe who carry little or no status as opinion leaders among Christians as their “popes.” All the better to bring up Westboro Baptist Church as typical of what all Christians really believe.

    The only acceptable belief is universalism. To suggest exclusivity in beliefs is the domain of the intolerant/haters. Never ask an invent-your-own-religion adherent on what basis he/she believes everybody will wind up happily ever after in the hereafter. Ask those intolerant/hater Christians to hold up their book of myths [citing Rabbinic law] as the reason. Your story then must quote mockers of their beliefs to discredit them.

    After rereading this, must state the obvious: This is a Screwtape-style posting.

  3. How about: Mix in bad science and bad math. It’s so much easier if you ignore the tools, methods and results of science in a story that includes scientific elements. Ignoring statistics or practicing the guidelines in “How to Lie With Statistics” also makes writing stories much less troublesome.

  4. Of course you question authority when the other party has somehow won the last election. Always interpret the news before you present the news. Tell us how the stock market has soared or plunged. If the cost of living adjustment to “entitlement” benefits is to be reduced, payments will be cut.