A Bridge

The Muzzled Piranha

Recently, Tim Radford of the Guardian wrote a piece in which he quoted his Manifesto for The Simple Scribe. 25 Rules for journalists to write news and reports properly. I was immediately hooked, as since I started in journalism (and I haven’t moved that much further on), the main concern drilled into my head has been simplicity.

But not at HT.

I’ve been ‘accused’, twice, of writing ‘too much like agency copy’. Dry, 5Ws in the first paragraph, to the point and with little atmosphere. The style expected here is much different – I’ve been told I need to ‘capture the mood’.

There are times and places for it. One thing I have noticed in Indian media is the continued shattering of rule number 17 in Radford’s piece:

17. Metaphors are great. Just don’t choose loopy metaphors, and never, never mix them. Subs on the Guardian used to have a special Muzzled Piranha Award, a kind of Oscar of incompetence, handed to an industrial relations reporter who warned the world that the Trades Union Congress wildcats were lurking in the undergrowth, ready to dart out like piranhas, unless they were muzzled. George Orwell reports on the case of an MP who claimed that the jackbooted fascist octopus had sung its swansong.

So I’ll be scouring the news here for the best examples of that kind of infraction. I’ll be avoiding blogs, as by definition you can write whatever the hell you want on them, but on occasion I’ll point out newspaper columns – a treatise on one’s persuasions and leanings, informed by contemporary events and pertaining to the context in which the auteur finds himself, do not give a license to obfuscate the true meaning of what is being expounded.


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