There are certain things an aspiring journalist should never say. Here are three for starters – but what others are there?
1. “I don’t read the news”
Whether you mean newspapers, or listening to radio or TV, this is heard as “I don’t care about anything much. I have no interest in my profession. I have no understanding of the current news agenda.”
The listener doesn’t care if you’re the best writer in the world, or have a world exclusive on the back burner – they just scratched your name off a list somewhere.
2. “I can’t spell!”
“…” That… is the sound of tumbleweed. Whether you say this half-jokingly or even totally-jokingly, what an editor actually hears is:
“Everything I write will take up someone else’s time to sub-edit. At some point, some bad copy will get through and make this organisation look like a bunch of illiterate fools. PS: Don’t let me near Twitter.”
Editors don’t joke about spelling.
3. “I hate using the phone.”
Most other journalists do, too: it’s annoying, having to speak to human beings when we could be spending hours honing a killer intro. But no one says it because this is the one part of the role that distinguishes them from everyone else.
So rest assured you’re not alone. Then shut up and pick up the phone.
…And here are some others suggested in comments and on Twitter:
4. “I’m waiting for them to reply to my email”
…Because of course your email went straight to the top of their list. See 3. above.
5. “I forgot to ask”
@paulbradshaw “I forgot to ask” – “Yeah I gave them ‘a’ call”
— Kadhim Shubber (@kadhimshubber) October 4, 2013
5. “What’s a blog?”
@paulbradshaw “what’s a blog?”, “isn’t social media just people sharing pictures of cats?”
— James Galley (@jagalley) October 4, 2013
6. “They never got back to me.”
From Cliff in the comments: You are responsible for following it up. Say “They are being evasive. I’ll keep trying.”
7. “I’ve done my shift.”
— Steve Dunthorne (@Steve_Dunthorne) October 4, 2013
8. “Where is this running?”
Also from Cliff in the comments: “Whether it’s on the front page or on page five of the TV guide, treat is just as professionally. Where it’s running isn’t your job.”
9. “Do you have the contact number for..?”
From John Thompson in the comments.
— Alexander Lobov (@alexlobov) October 4, 2013
10. “There’s no news”
Reply: “Look harder.”
11. “Well, it’s gotta be… “/“Everybody knows that it’s…”
From Jack Rosenberry in the comments: Saying things such as this equate to “I’m too lazy to do enough fact checking/verification”, which is a slippery slope to errors that will clobber you.
12. “I wrote a piece about [blank] instead.”
From paperguydavies in the comments: “Did you ask ahead of time if you could write a piece about (blank) instead? Because if you did, you don’t need to say that, and if you didn’t, you shouldn’t have written a piece about (blank) instead.”
13. “We ran that story last year”
That doesn’t mean nothing new has happened since. Even the annual ‘A levels getting easier’ debate deserves coverage (because a trend has continued, and people are talking about it again), and in some cases ‘no news’ is news – if something was revealed a year ago and nothing has been done about it, for example.From Bart Brouwers.
14. “We can wait – it’s an exclusive”
…Until someone else gets it. Also from Bart Brouwers.
15. “That’s how it was written in the press release”
@paulbradshaw in reply to why something is spelt incorrectly or not in house style – “that’s how it was written in the press release”
— Emma O’Sullivan (@EmSulley) October 7, 2013
16. “Well that’s what he told me. I didn’t understand it either.”
If you didn’t understand it, why do you think your readers will? From Deputy Editor of Devon Life Owen Jones.
17. “It’s not news – everyone [in our circle] knows about it”
After a while of working in news you can start to believe ‘new’ means ‘new to me and my friends’. It doesn’t – it means new to your audience. Stories can be new in the specialist or local press one day, new in the national press the next day, and new on TV the day after. But more than that, people in different circles know different things at different times. What matters is whether your audience knows about it.