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Sunday, May 26, 2013
If it's a pink Cadillac, that's what goes in the newspaperPosted 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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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