Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Knowing the purpose of communication

How hard it is for the news media. This morning's post from the mangling of information department comes from our local ABC affiliate, Channel 8 in Dallas, Texas.

It is pretty common to have a "crawl" going at the bottom of a screen - giving some highlights, quick overviews of what's happening, etc. So one would expect clear, crisp writing that is able to be understood easily. After all, the viewer is being forced to multi-task while watching the show, listening to the speaker/interview or whatever, and to read the crawl. That's a lot of brainwork - especially at 0500.

So imagine my horror when these 2 gems showed up this morning. "Michelle Bachman's campaign chief is stepping down, along with his deputy, Ed Rollins, who is 68, cites health reasons." and "Forecasters say it is less likely that hurricane Katia will hit the US. It is now a category 4 storm with 135 mph wind speeds."

So what's wrong here? There is so much it is hard to know where to start.

First, the format is just not suitable for a crawl. Especially with all of the commas. But more importantly, the message is just plain hard to tease out. In a crawl, by definition some of the message is not available to the reader. So, imagine that part of the hurricane crawl had gone by and all you saw was the piece that said "hurricane Katia will hit the US. It is now" - which is what I saw when I glanced at the TV this morning. Exactly the opposite of the intended meaning.

Writing for this medium is different than writing long form. We as writers need to understand the form that our message will be delivered in (yeah, I know, dangling preposition), and craft the message accordingly.

Oh and is it Ed Rollins who is the campaign chief? or is Ed Rollins the deputy? I don't know. I can guess, but am really not sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment