“It’s the day after the night before.” What the hell does that mean? Good question. It’s what I asked after I heard that line—the first sentence in the lead story of a local, northern Ontario newscast. My father’s response, “It’s local news; what do you expect?” Well, I expect more.
I’ll admit that my years of news writing and teaching have made me slightly obsessive about the importance of clarity when telling a story. Especially in broadcast writing, when there is so little time to begin with, throw away lines like the one I quoted above are an outrage. However, it seems the more concerned I become with the spoken and written word, the less the rest of the universe seems to care.
The same weekend I watched that newscast, I marked multiple papers in which students “defiantly” liked the book they read for an assignment. I defiantly suggest that “spell check” is definitely no replacement for proof reading.
Aside from the fact you might be marked for your use of grammar, or listeners in a newscast may be distracted by a cryptic line and miss the importance of the story, no one will know what you really mean if you don’t express yourself properly.
Is Rachael Ray a cannibal? Does she enjoy cooking her pets? Lack of punctuation most certainly muddles the message.
Joking aside, a well-written script or story turns the mundane into the magical; brings home the suffering or jubilation of others; provides context to events that have lasting impact. If you’re working as a journalist you should choose your words carefully, and use them well. If you’re studying to be a journalist you should be practicing your language skills like an artist practicing different strokes with a brush.
Words matter—local newscast or not. And yes, I know that last sentence is grammatically incorrect, but I chose my words carefully and, hopefully, used them well.