Wednesday, January 22, 2014

So you want to be a journalist? Take this sampler test...

Let's start with the easy stuff. Spot the spelling error in this ad:

Got it? Excellent start. No? Now look at this other ad:

There are two "m's" in accommodation (the second ad got it right). I wouldn't employ you as a journalist if you can't spot such common spelling errors.

Next, what's wrong with the second paragraph in this recent TODAY story (it gets trickier)?:

A condominium is the entire building project. This is another common Singaporean misuse of the term. So, someone might say: "I just bought a three-bedroom condominium in the upscale Holland Road area for two million dollars. It's freehold, so it's good value."

Nope, you have to say "condominium unit"!

So, in the TODAY example, above, the second paragraph should begin thus: "Developers sold 259 condominium units..."

ST's story got it right, and it did not even have to use the term "condominium":


Okay, let's now scrutinise two stories that appeared in TODAY and ST (both Jan 22). Which version is the better story and why?...



I felt the ST story had the better intro but it then slipped into its trademark "template writing", bombarding the reader with long official quotes when what we want to know (after being told that there were serious security breaches) are the who, what, when, why and how. On this score, TODAY went on to provide a more exciting story with good attention to interesting details while interspersing its account with the mandatory official voices.

One last test...

TODAY's story above was better written. But did you spot its huge mistake? Take a look at its last paragraph (Hint: it is as bad as the 369 divisions blooper I had previously pointed out):

If you are still scratching your head, this is ST's version:

I may have dyscalculia but even I can tell that it is absurd to state that "Last year, about 68 million vehicles passed through the checkpoints every day." Singapore will become a massively horrendous traffic jam from Woodlands to Marina Bay. Meanwhile, vehicles will be falling off into the sea as more of them keep piling into the country!!

ST got its figure right: "The ICA said 50 million vehicles crossed Woodlands checkpoint in 2012...". Okay, there is also the Tuas checkpoint which is less heavily utilised. But however you crunch the annual figures for the two checkpoints, you will never hit 60 million vehicles on a daily basis.

Sure you still want to be a journalist?

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