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Why We Need Ethical Journalism - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Why We Need Ethical Journalism
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(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 28th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)


>>Why should journalism be above this, when most other fields are not?<<

Because facts underlie everything we do. If we have got them wrong, those errors will cause problems everywhere. No field is exempt from that. So it is absolutely crucial that all fact-providing fields be extremely rigorous.

Also, you can't build a pyramid from the top down. You must have a secure foundation for it first. When repairing a society, you have to work on its fundamentals first -- including the sources of information.

>> What makes a publication "pro" but the rate they pay? <<

Quality -- Its content is measurably better in both objective and subjectives ways than amateur material. The subjects are significant and memorable.

Integrity -- Its staff and writers have good professional bearing, are decent to work with, and fulfill their responsibilities. Factual material published is accurate. Fictional material is solidly built, and if dealing with controversial topics, faces them squarely and does not lash out just for the sake of shocking people.

Durability -- Material appears in a relatively steady stream over time. A periodical keeps its schedule. A writer puts out new work often. This continues for a long while, not a flash in the pan and then gone.

Respect -- All of these things contribute to how people perceive a professional market or a professional writer. They talk about the material. There may be award nominations and/or wins. The readership grows. People may emulate this example, cite it in articles, use it in a class, etc.

Money is important because it lets you do more of the important stuff that you're really here to do. If you feel that my writing is important, for instance, you can give me money, thus enabling me to do more of it. You know what? I don't need a writer's organization to tell me I'm a professional. I have my record book for that. There is a lot more to being pro than making a certain amount of money -- as an editor, boy howdy did I see proof of THAT. Organizations that only use one parameter for that determination are, in my opinion, too narrow-minded to be of much use to me, and I leave most of them to whatever audience they're seeking with that approach.

>> Is "pro status" really an indicator of higher quality (or better writers), or is it mostly a matter of money? <<

That depends on whether you count the above factors.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 28th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Like I already said, a shift toward a society that holds facts above money may require a wholesale move away from a money-oriented society.<<

Yes, it does. That's on my list of objectives. But when you're trying to disassemble a juggernaut, you have to apply the monkeywrench to one nut at a time. That's especially true if you want to have a pile of reusable parts left when you are through, as opposed to blowing the whole thing to kingdom come and having to start over from scratch. I would rather repair than replace; I would rather disassemble and rebuild than start from scratch.

>> Perhaps the higher rates are indicative of higher quality, but I wonder how true this supposed fact really is. <<

The two curves are similar but not identical.

>> Higher pay rate doesn't necessarily equal higher quality in the realm of mainstream poetry. Need I mention the crap poetry I've seen in some of the pro-rate mainstream poetry publications? <<

Remember that poetry is being taught badly, and that's an endemic problem. It causes some people to decide that crap is good, some to decide that their own judgment is worthless, and some to decide that the teacher is an imbecile.

>> I know apparent quality can be subjective, especially when it comes to poetry, and I might not be a poetry expert, but I still know crap when I see it. <<

Artistic merit is largely subjective. Technical skill is largely objective. An editor who is not aware of this and does not apply it should not be buying poetry.

>>When publications pay pro rates for crap, I wonder about the overall quality of those publications.<<

I certainly take off points for it. It's more often due to poor training or no training than poor taste, I think, but the end result is still the publication of crap. If you can't tell the difference between quality and crap, you're not fully effective as a professional.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 29th, 2010 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Somewhere along the line, today's poetry lost the beauty that was inherent in much of the poetry of the past. Much of it ceased being an art form and became something else.<<

I agree. However, that can be changed, or at least sidestepped. Teach people the true beauty of poetry. This is easier now than ever before -- over the last couple of decades I have watched people who like poetry begin to find each other and share good verse. Fandom and Paganism are two fields where poetry is fairly popular. I think crowdfunding may help too.

>> I may run mostly on instinct when it comes to poetry, but I know when my instincts cry out "this is no good!". <<

When you instincts tell you something, ask them why. What makes this poem good? What makes that one unbearable? Look at what happens in the poem. Listen to how the words sound, how they feel in your mouth. If you pay attention, you'll figure out the features and how they work. Or you can read some books on poetic design: John Drury's Creating Poetry is excellent.

>> An editor should have those very same instincts, perhaps honed to an even keener edge than that possessed by most of their potential contributors.<<

Ideally, yes, an editor should have both general editorial training plus a knowledge of poetry in particular. In practice, many abdicate this responsibility. It's quite common to see a rejection slip that says, "Poetry is subjective, so we don't comment on it or edit it." Dude, if you don't know what you're doing and what a type of writing is supposed to be, you hadn't ought to be an acquiring editor for it.

>>I even question some of the things being taught in regard to fiction. Certainly, what worked for past masters, what worked in works that will probably be around a lot longer than most works produced today, is touted as being all wrong by many of today's writing "experts".<<

Well, "don't use adjectives or adverbs" is one common piece of horseshit advice. You have to cut to the core:
* Is the story gratifying to write and to read?
* Does it make sense?
* Does the setting support the action and characters?
* Are the characters interesting, believable people worth spending time with? Do they grow, strive, and/or discover things in the story?
* Do important events happen? Does the plot have some good twists so the action isn't too obvious?
* Is the story "about" something? What does the writer have to say about the theme beyond here-it-is?
* Is there anything fresh and surprising in the story?
* Does the language enhance the story and not distract from it?
* Does the story stick in the reader's mind long-term? Does it make the reader think about things?

>>Yes, I do have a tendency to question everything. I rarely accept something just because "that's the way it is".<<

Good for you! That may not always be comfortable, but it does make it hard for people to bamboozle you.
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