Saturday, May 9, 2015

I've Enjoyed Being a Journalist

I suppose writing news for Maharishi School makes me more a press agent than a journalist since I'm writing press releases often for the media, but I still prefer journalist since I'm using the 5W + how for accuracy and detail. Besides, journalist is more Indiana Jones; press agent is more James Boswell.

I could also be called a professional blogger, even though I'm not living off my own business blog. Most of what I write is for Maharishi School's website blog, and when I shuffle pieces off to the media, I rewrite if necessary to a more conservative style and tone. (That's not usually necessary for sports, though! "Pioneers Crush Trojans!")

One result of this year's news writing for marketing is that I've worked with more everyday prose on the skill of writing for a particular effect. I write an article to motivate people to come to an event or to participate in a fund-raiser or to admire a student's achievement. Getting across the facts is essential, but also essential is having the words produce a subtle but real emotional response. Honing the prose to hone a reader's response has been a rewarding and illuminating experience.

An example of using detail to hone readers' response is the recent article "Spring Gala 'Iron Chef' Competition." Yes, I wanted to provide the basics of describing the contest and who won, but I also wanted to provide detail that revealed the expertise of the chef and, therefore, the success of Maharishi School's enrichment elective cooking program. I decided to accomplish this by using the winner's description of process and ingredients, allowing the specificity of detail to indicate competency. I think that worked.

Writing Maharishi School alumni profiles was also another experience in writing for an effect. In the profiles, my job was, in about 150 words, to project success, fulfillment, and expertise--that these alumni are in the "top of their game" in their fields. This, of course, wasn't a stretch since they are experts, innovators, and role models of how to succeed in making the world a better place. However, projecting this in 150 words or fewer was an excellent exercise in "less is more." It was fun to write the rough draft and then to begin leaning down the writing. What words could I eliminate and still say the same thing? How could I concentrate meaning? What events, awards, and activities really portrayed dynamic, successful interaction in a particular field?

Focusing on the connotative elements of language is not a new experience for me. Especially when writing poetry, but with all creative writing, the connotative flavors of a word are just as important as the denotative exactness. Working with this reality, though, in non-fiction news was a new experience, and I think I'm a better writer for that experience.

I always told my students that writing was a skill that improved with practice. And dang me if it ain't true!

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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