Sunday, 27 September 2009

Some people just can't write

When I don't aspire to be the world's fastest ocean swimmer (chortle) and the world's most successful author (double chortle) I have a day job. And it involves teaching the noble craft of print journalism to tertiary-level students.

Each year the students I teach are required to produce a feature story for a student magazine. My role is to vet the story topics and guide students through the writing process. I edit their work and give positive, never negative, feedback.

I spend the better part of the year gently explaining the principles of journalism 101 before I set the students free to pursue their story topics.

But each year is the same. There's always a significant number who just don't get it. Some of it's laziness or they're just not interested - their goal is to host Getaway or become a fashion magazine editor - and who needs to be able to write to do that?

Then there are those with attitude. They see themselves as the next Kerouac or Hunter S Thompson. Hunter comes up a lot - I tell them to go and get a habit and an arsenal of guns... just joking!

Many have no knowledge of grammar, punctuation or syntax. They don't see a good quote when it stares them in the face and they don't value the facts.

They can't write and no amount of explaining, guidance or mentoring helps.

From experience, I have learnt that my better students already have a flair for words. Mostly, they are modest about their natural talent and eager to learn more. In their learning, they apply good journalim skills - they listen, they only interrupt where necessary and they realise that practise makes perfect.

They are the rare gems.
(Guess what the cartoon guy is saying: "Geez, how do you spell that big word?" or "I should've become a tradie. At least that'd help me pull chicks.")

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