We got some good writing advice in my radio workshop today. Amongst other apt suggestions from our professor, such as “Get to it!” when it comes to broadcasting, he also reminded us of this brief quote by Linden MacIntyre, an investigative journalist for the CBC:
There’s one, short question that you have to address: Who gives a shit?
Ahhh. There’s the rub.
It’s funny, there are so many things that I’m interested in and would love to write about, but with news you need to be able to answer the question, “Why now?”
You might have a really great idea for a piece, but if there’s nothing timely in it, then… your piece might not be as great as you think.
It works to your advantage to have it come out in a timely fashion when people care about it of course, because then they’re all the more likely to read it.
Say for example you shadowed a candy factory worker for a day. Well, that’s pretty cool. In fact, I would definitely read that. But the thing to keep in mind is your audience. Do most of them have the time to commit to your whimsy?
But! What if last week the candy factory your worker was at came under investigation, for employee maltreatment, or something such. Then! Your piece is suddenly relevant to the public eye. “Can you believe they have to eat ten candy bars a day? Yeah! I read it in so-and-so’s piece!”
You knew it was interesting all along, but you have to time these things so that your public is willing to be receptive.
I think there is a certain point (far, far, far, far, over the hill and away in my future) where your readers will trust you enough that they will listen to anything you think is important enough to write about.
But for now, us lowly, baby writers need to understand how public consciousness works, and how to make our works understood and stand out amongst the daily vortex of media content.
So, yeah. Why should anyone give a shit?
Being able to answer that question will also help your pitches improve, until no one is turning down your stories. Just saying.
Thanks to MacIntyre for being so saucy, and Doug Kirkaldy for teaching radio.