For me writing is both a practical and creative tool: a personal and professional project. I feel driven to write as a means of exploration, experimentation and communication.
Writing is obviously an intrinsic part of both journalism and academic life. And although the dominant traditions in both spheres have a long romance with fact, discovery and objectivity, journalistic writing and academic writing are very different.
Journalism is often called the “first draft of history.” It is writing in a hurry. A journalist writes in an “inverted pyramid:” the main point first, in a punchy direct statement, the rest follows in order of interest. Hesitations and qualifications, if allowed at all, jockey for space at the end.
For academics writing is a slower process, built through a gradual accumulation of data and reflection. Caution and complexity are key.
I like writing of all kinds.
I like the constant polishing of drafts, the crystalisation of form.
I like both the simplicity of journalism and the rich dalliances of academic form.
I’ve been writing journals, stories and articles since I was a teenager and I sometimes forget that many students don’t have that same familiarity with the process. For many of them writing remains a place of trauma. What for me is part of everyday for others is formidable and exotic.
For journalism students – even those involved in broadcasting – writing must become an everyday habit that holds no fear.
I believe it is important to encourage students not just to write good news style, but to write in all styles and to write a lot. Assigned wriitng tasks will always be part of this but helping students to achieve an easy fluid writing style means encouraging them to make writing and thinking about writing a part of their everyday life. Students must be cajoled into the pleasures of writing.