When I teach
journalists, I like to encourage them to think of themselves as
historians. They are not just acting as witnesses for the age, but must
put the mayhem of events and opinions into order and perspective. I am
impressed by journalism that achieves this, with BBC Radio 4 and World
Service the outstanding examples; but a large proportion of the media
output, especially in print, simply adds to the cacophony and has me
grumbling about the waste of paper, money and the writer’s education.
only read one newspaper every day – the Wall Street Journal. To me, it
stands out for its writing, its insights, and – surprisingly for a
newspaper that is largely monotone, uses few photographs and rarely
uses large headlines – its colourful stories.
Where else could
you read a 4,000- word article on cock-fighting alongside an analysis
of Airbus’ gladiatorial battle with Boeing? One of my jobs is to make
the business of technology fascinating and engaging to others: the WSJ,
whose writing guide used to use the exhortation “Anecdote, anecdote,
anecdote”, is the role model.
The WSJ uses one journalistic trick
especially well. By moving from the particular to the general and back,
it is able to tell human interest stories in the context of wider
One recent example: a 2,000-word article by
Cassell Bryan-Low on Douglas Cade Havard, an American college kid who
helped to run an international, Russian-financed internet fraud from
his house in Leeds.
Havard’s remarkable story received little attention in the UK press.
the rest of the media, I graze, often moving around the web for
international perspectives. I read one broadsheet every day, but none
hooks me. Each has its merits and the standard of straight reporting is
as high as ever, but nothing drives me away from a paper more than
middleclass chatter, often masquerading as analysis. The Sunday
broadsheets are the worst offenders. For a deeper weekly overview of
what matters, The Economist does the job comprehensively and concisely.
light relief, Lucy Kellaway’s reasoned assaults on business absurdities
in the FT are a weekly highlight. And The Observer Sports Monthly is
able to interest me in sports that I wouldn’t cross the road to watch.
For the sport I do love (football), BBC Radio Five Live is peerless. It
captures everything except the pictures.
Andy Lawrence is founder and editorial director of Infoconomy, publisher of Information Age