When I opened up the newspaper last week to read my column—I try to read it like an editor would, or like a first-time reader—I was immediately struck by what a long “Hurdler’s Tale” it was.
Before I go any further, let me take a moment to congratulate a fellow hurdler and the Athens School District’s most recent State Champion student athlete. Tremendous accomplishment, Rachel Hutchison…the whole Valley is really proud of you. A much better “Hurdler’s Tale” than my own!
Now then…back to the topic at hand: I didn’t realize how much space my story was going to occupy on page four. Nearly half a page is probably more than was necessary since I wasn’t getting paid by the word.
I was reminded of my long suffering boss in my previous position in radio news. Over a seven year span, I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times he had to remind me that newscasts are limited by time, and he’d like to have more than one story to read in each news block. Each time I would dutifully promise to shorten my submissions, but within twenty-four hours I would backslide and dump a two page tome into the news drawer, where a single half page was to be hoped for. His hair wasn’t grey when I joined the news team, but it sure was by the time I left. Personally I think that was just coincidence, but who’s to say?
I always thought a good story was worth the time it took to tell. Another way of saying that, I suppose, is I just didn’t know when to stop. I love words…lots of words, the more the better! Turns out, that isn’t an absolute, universal truth. I was stunned.
There exists in the news business a credo of sorts: brief and to the point, aka sometimes less is more. There also exists the editor’s pen, for the sake of brevity. I’m sure there’s an Editor’s Pen Graveyard somewhere, just chucked full of the dried husks of used up writing implements whose lives were cut short in the never ending effort to line through and pare down the excess verbosity of the overzealous broadcast journalist. Who knows how many Pulitzer Prizes for Creative News Writing were cast onto the junk pile of history for the sake of just reporting the facts? Somehow, I suspect, not very many.
There are several other arenas where brevity would be preferred over the standard procedure: insurance language for example, or how about tax laws? Judas Priest! Talk about getting paid by the word! Bloviate, obfuscate, prattle on, “if you can’t dazzle ‘em with details, baffle ‘em with BS!”
I could go on, but for brevity’s sake…
Have you ever been in the audience at a banquet or similar function/fete where the keynote speaker was utterly enchanted by—nay, enthralled with—the sound of his/her own voice, the sonorous droning on with which he/she has cast his/her captive, but not captivated, listeners under a spell, or more accurately, a curse that renders them incapable of forcing their heavy-lidded eyes to remain open and fixed upon his /her magnificence, hanging perilously or indifferently on every mind-numbing syllable?
The preceding question, query, interrogatory, my friends, readers, audience, is an example of the bloviating, obfuscating prattling on that I was referring to…except that bloviating generally refers to endless streams of self-aggrandizing, high-toned horse hockey (thank you Col Potter from M*A*S*H*) spilling from the mouth of, for example, any politician currently serving the American public from Capitol Hill.
I’m sure I could go on, but for brevity’s sake…
Contact Lloyd Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org