Writing well is the best revenge

truth and beautyWe had a discussion in the comments on a post last week that has stayed with me. I had written that generic refrains of bias at given newspapers bother me because they fail to take into account how individual reporters perform their jobs differently. I also said that some complaints fail to take into account other things that are important when writing a story, such as writing well. Reader Larry Rasczak disagreed:

This goes to the fundamental purpose of a newspaper. Lets face it, there are three reasons for a newspaper to exist. The economic one (print something in between the advertisiments that will attract readers), the old style journalistic one (if what you print between the ads is accurate and dependable over the long run you will attract more readers and you can charge more for the ads), and the public service one (our republican form of government depends on a well informed electorate making well informed decisions in the voting booth).

So when I purchase a newspaper, the primary thing that I am looking for is ACCURATE news. I want to know what is going on in D.C. and Fubaristan; and I don't need William Faulkner or Henry James to do that.

I replied that I saw no conflict between writing an accurate story and writing an interesting and well-constructed story. But mean ol' Rasczak was having none of it:

But the news business isn't writing . . . it is data transmission. 5W's. News is like heavy artillery, accuracy is EVERYTHING.

I'm tempted to agree with Rasczak on this since my writing style for straight news tends to fall into the accurate camp rather than the well-written camp. One of my dear friends told me once, "Your analytical stories are never that exciting, but I always fully understand what you're trying to convey."

I'm curious what other readers think about this. How important is it to you that stories be well-constructed? Do you even notice different levels of quality in writing? How does writing quality rank in how you determine whether a news story is good?

Photo of Ann Patchett's book via McBeth on Flickr.

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