Write Affirmatively!

Your writing should have voice and authority, something present-tense helps achieve. Some sense of you should slip through, too.

Journalism schools perpetrate a great urban legend—that news reporting is unbiased, objective. There is no such thing. All reporting is biased by factors immeasurable. Consider culture as one filter. Political preference is another. Education. Economic class. Heck, whether someone uses Android or iPhone influences perspective.

I make a distinction between unbiased, objective reporting and what is responsible, which goes back two of my favorite repairing principles: Write what you know to be true in the moment—not what you think or suspect—and soundly source stories, which means independently, not based on someone else’s sourcing. If you properly source and present information as you know it to be true, you write responsibly.

Responsible writing shouldn’t be boring. Be affirmative and present a point of view—both attributes make posts more interesting. I typically affirmatively write several stories about the same topic from different points of view, leading some readers to comment about contradictory posts or linkbaiting. Neither is true. For any news event, there are multiple perspectives to consider. Always.

The best affirmative, authoritative, and responsible writing has voice. Matt Taibbi is excellent example. His reports, crass and cussing, are clearly sourced and present a point of view appropriate for the Rolling Stone readership.

Consider the lead paragraph to Matt’s Jan. 4, 2013 story “Secrets and Lies of the Bailout”:

It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, ‘Alien Nation’-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you’d think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we’ve been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul—right? Wrong.

Matt writes with gusto, and you should, too.

Late last month, Matt left the magazine, and he is one of the main reasons I subscribe. My annual summer renewal is now uncertain. He goes to First Look Media, one of several new news ventures I carefully watch. May he bring the same kind of affirmative, advocacy, writing to First Look.