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If it's a pink Cadillac, that's what goes in the newspaper

Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009, at 7:47 PM

We have a winner!

An envelope with no return address was waiting for me on my keyboard when I got to the office Monday morning.

Inside was an unsigned letter that I have declared to be the reader letter that takes the cake this week.

People complain when there's too many juicy details in stories. Other people complain because there's not enough. Doesn't matter what you write, somebody will find some reason to complain about it.

And of course I make mistakes -- not intentionally, but it happens. Oops. When it does, I appreciate someone chiming in and offering a correction but all too often, we get some people who correct, complain or comment with a judgmental, hateful attitude.

I've learned to accept my mistakes and the corrections and comments, but not when they come with the negativity. I'd be lying if I said they don't bother me.

When I opened and read this anonymous note, my first thought was "Good gravy, don't you have anything to do?" My second thought was to answer it.

It's asking why I include a certain little detail in my stories. I do it because it adds a little bit of "color" and I like colorful adjectives -- you know, to set the scene for the drama. But I don't sit around thinking about this particular detail -- it just goes in automatically if I know it.

In contrast, I do sit around thinking about a lot of other details -- whether to include or not -- because they could adversely affect someone or because they are details that might be inappropriate for a number of reasons.

Here's the note ...

"Anna, When you give a report on a vehicle accident, why do you give the color of vehicles? Who cares what color they are? My self and a lot of other people wonder why you do it. Think about it. Don't you think it is sort of silly?"

OK, I've thought about it and no, I do not think it is silly.

If it's not included in a story, it's because I don't know that detail.

If I know it, or if it's included in an officer's report, then it goes in. Why not? Don't you want to know all the details the police have released to you, the public? Or is that one I should hold back and not tell you?

Words are powerful and people form assumptions about things, and people, when they read a story. More details equals more accurate assumptions. The color of a car is usually just one or two words that could give the reader a better picture of the situation.

"He drove off in a truck," is not nearly so good as "He drove off in a white truck with a green fender and a blue hood."

We form different pictures about drivers of brown cars, red cars, orange cars, light blue cars. "A camouflage Jeep" gives the reader a different picture than "a yellow Jeep" or just "a Jeep."

I can't believe I wrote a whole viewpoint about this -- must be a slow news week.

For all you lots of people wondering about this, if a Cadillac gets in a wreck and it happens to be a pink Cadillac, it should be obvious -- that word "pink" is going in.

Anna is a staff writer at the Greene County Daily World and can be reached by calling (812) 847-4487 or by sending an e-mail to indianarose@fastmail.us .


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I like that you include the color. Hopefully the people complaining never get their vehicle stolen; but if they were to, they sure would be glad that color description is in there so others can be on the lookout. Besides it's part of being a good writer to be able to describe and give your readers a visual picture. It made J. K. Rowling and many other writers a multi-millionaire!!!! Just because you write for a newspaper doesn't mean you should sacrifice your writing to please others.

-- Posted by Polar Bear on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 11:19 PM

Someone, and apparently many of his or her friends, actually ponder why you would use adjectives of color in your stories? And then it gets even weirder in that he or she wrote you a letter to tell you of this?

Lord help us.

-- Posted by hopeanddust on Thu, Feb 26, 2009, at 6:58 AM

Anna..glad you wrote this. As you said "Doesn't matter what you write, somebody will find some reason to complain about it. " this is so true. Seems alot of people don't have much going on in their lives and can only find the negative in every thing and those that are not happy just want to try and make others unhappy as well. Wish everyone would turn off the negative thoughts and have positive ones..I think it would be a better a better world.

-- Posted by shadows on Thu, Feb 26, 2009, at 7:06 AM

Anna, You are doing fine! I like your stories.

-- Posted by FTM on Fri, Feb 27, 2009, at 1:28 AM

I FOR ONE WOULDN'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THEM... IF IT WAS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IMPORTANT THAT THEY NEEDED TO WRITE IT THEN THEY SHOULD HAVE SIGNED THEIR NAME..... COMPLANTS ONLY COUNT WHEN THERE'S A NAME TO GO WITH IT. IT JUST LOSES A LOT WHEN YOUR TOO "SHY" OR MORTIFIED... TO SIGN!!

-- Posted by Magpie on Fri, Feb 27, 2009, at 9:44 AM

Hey Anna correct my spelling... lol

-- Posted by Magpie on Fri, Feb 27, 2009, at 12:58 PM

I agree 100% Anna. I would want all of the facts that are available to the story at hand. Keep up the good work.

-- Posted by Cubs Fan 23 on Fri, Mar 6, 2009, at 4:37 PM


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