Thursday, January 4, 2007

Reading The News Is Becoming a Chore...

...and not very enjoyable for me lately. It is not because I find it difficult to read because I now wear eyeglasses, nor that the news is boring or otherwise uninteresting. The fact of the matter is, that at least in my opinion, I find many of the news articles written today to be less than pleasurable to read because they are, in my opinion, written so poorly. Allow me to provide a link to an example of what I mean at, which is a link to an article Somali militia 'still in hiding' appearing on the The article is, in essence, about the hunt by government forces for Islamists in Ethiopia and Somalia. It is a subject that interests me greatly, yet this article just had me shaking my head because of how it was written. Read it yourself, and see if you can guess what it is about this article that bothers me.

Done reading yet? Okay, if finished, now let me explain my discontent. The article is written in bullet format. Their is not a single paragraph from what I can see; instead there are bullets - or single sentences that give bits of stand alone information. Reports like that, ones that use a bullet format, are often used in government circles in order to quickly brief superiors about ongoing events. They are, or should be, backed up by in depth reports. Reports in the written news media should be, in my opinion, in depth reports, not bullet reports. Bullet reports just tend to show me a lack of writing ability on the part of the reporter, a lack of being able to cover a topic in depth, a lack of being able to take all the points of interest in an article and put them together in a story line that flows from one point to another in a connected, and literally well done, sort of way. This is usually done by writing in composition format, with liberal use of the invention called the paragraph. This is the type of article with which I am most comfortable, the type I find most enjoyable to read, and the type which seems to show that the author has actually used some literary skill to write.

Why is it, I wonder, that the media has turned toward use of bullet style reports is beyond me. Don't they think that more than a sentence or two at a time can hold the attention of the reader? Or is it that the crop of reporters and writers today find it difficult to write anything longer than a sentence at a time, that they cannot hold their train of thought long enough to connect things in a paragraph? I ask those questions in all seriousness. I mean, just look at the article to which I supplied the link, it is made up almost entirely one sentence length bullets. There is one, by my count, two sentence bullet - one part of that whole article that is longer than just a single sentence, and that part has a whopping two sentences! I think none of them even barely qualify as a paragraph.

Don't get me wrong; there are times that the bullet format should be used, but the time to use such a format is not, in my opinion, in a lengthy article or other composition. Bullet reporting is quite useful during time of emergency when all the niceties need to be cut away and the point needs to be reached immediately. Bullet style reporting is also great when there is limited space or time to report for reasons other than emergency; for example on radio news shows, on television news when some runs down the headlines, in print when their is limited space to report on a subject, and so forth. It just irks me when I see this type of reporting used on a daily basis in full length articles.

Of course not every news report is written like the one to which I linked, but all too many of them are being written like that, it seems to be a growing trend. It is certainly not just limited to articles found on the BBC either. I have read similar articles at and at, as well as in local newspapers. I don't know where the writers who write like this learned to write, but my bet is they did not get the same type of education that I was given by Dominican nuns in grammar school, and by Franciscan brothers in high school. Had I tried to hand in compositions written like this when I was in grammar school, or in high school, my knuckles would have been raw, and I would have stayed after class, each day for a week, writing compositions using paragraphs, in order to tell a story in a seemingly coherent and flowing format.

I guess times are changing, but my preferences will remain the same at least with regard to the styles of writing I prefer to read.

All the best,
Glenn B