18 July 2010

That was the week that was...

and what a week.

Six days ago, five would-be journalists assembled in a pokey office room a stones-throw away from Mornington Crescent.

Then came the pitch.

Forget everything you knew about writing and journalism. Best to clear the diary for the summer too, because you're going nowhere fast, kids. Expect rejection, and keep expecting it until we knock you into shape. Because make no mistake, we will turn you into a journalist, even if by week six we have to scrape your semi-conscious excuse for a body off the floor, prop your eyes open with matchsticks and replay you powerpoint slides on media law until you can recite the book, backwards.

"You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to me that all this libel and slander is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. I've learned me lesson, sir. I've seen now what I've never seen before. I'm cured! Praise god!"

But most importantly of all, they said, is relax.

I've learnt and so much this past week that I've barely had time to come to terms with the fact that we have to have a fully-formed magazine fit for publication in a few weeks. Even so, I thought I'd jot down a few of the many things that 6 days at bootcamp PMA has taught me.

At PMA I have learned that...

1) Less is more.

As the days went on, it became apparent that my writing was hamstrung by the common condition known as talkingoutofmybacksideitis. It has many forms, but the most common indicator is where the writer uses really long, unneccessary and complex words which only make the writer seem like a show-off and only confuses readers, and as this carries on it creates multi-claused, humongous sentences which end up making no sense and makes readers think the author is being at best facetious, at worst taking the piss, and ultimately the idea of reaching the end of the sentence impossible and not an endeavour worth bothering with.

Annoying isn't it?

Well, Roberta and her red pen of DEATH (to unneeded letters) is quickly getting my copy into shape. Hopefully, as it finally sticks in the ol' noggin, the resubs will stop.

2) You shouldn't just ask questions. Ask the right ones instead.

It seems a bit obvious that a budding reporter should be a nosey sod. But questions are only as useful as their answers, and it's a glum feeling when you read back through a vox-pop or interview only to realise that you asked crap questions and got back what you thoroughly deserved - crap answers. For instance on Friday we went to the show Event and Exhibiting show, tasked with finding news. When I left and read through my notes, I suddenly realised that I had merely been one half of several different sales pitches.

Contrast that to the weekend. Yesterday I went to the soon-to-be-removed protest camp on parliament square, looking for a news story. Today I went to a fair in Arnold Circus with a similar aim in mind. It took just an hour of careful questioning and probing at each to get news stories, whereas I spent the best part of three hours at the Exhibitioning show indulging in the sales pitch of various men in suits. Quality, not quantity.

3) The English language should be taken around the back of the stables and shot.

Ok, so that may be a slight exaggeration. I mean technically I should love English, if I want to get paid for writing. But seriously, liquefy? Supersede? ino-effing-culate? How can you master a language which breaks as many rules as it creates?

Thankfully, we have Keith on our side - a man who Lynne Truss would probably describe as "a bit too pedantic for my liking". After being a tad embarrassed from the results of a proofreading exercise yesterday (89 mistakes on two pages of copy), an hour of tuition with Keith later, I felt pretty confident about things.

It's still a fruitloop of a lexicon though, isn't it?

Ok, spleen vented. Bedtime now. Long week ahead.



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