Column-Writing Lecture

Column-Writing Lecture
The heart of journalism may be news
reporting, and the soul of journalism the
editorial page, but the personality of
journalism is the column.
-- Sam Riley, Editor, The American
Newspaper Columnist (1998)
• Straight News Report: no reference to “I”,
unbiased, factual,
• Feature article: some reference to first
person, but primarily an investigative
• A Column can break all the rules.
Straight News Report
The United Kingdom is working on an
unprecedented £1-billion annual
international emergency aid and
development package to rescue the ruined
Zimbabwean economy, the Guardian
reported on Thursday.
Feature Article
In the past five years, the UK has given over
£20-billion in aid to sub-Saharan Africa,
and is promising another £1-billion to a
newly democratised Zimbabwe. But is this
enough to save the Zimbabwean
economy? Tracy Lee investigates how aid
has been used by benefactors in the past.
When I read about the promised £1-billion
for Zim, I just knew there was going to be
• Collapse the division between the private
and the public.
• Localised content, i.e. national or regional
– aimed at creating a sense of community.
• Assume identification with the reader (the
“we” used in column-writing is assumed)
Krisjan Lemmer
The allegations against Mbulelo Goniwe are
but a horsefly on the ass of the ANC, says
Smuts Ngonyama. “Mistakes do happen,”
he said this week, “but that does not mean
that will change the image of the party.
The party is too big to be affected by one
person’s mistakes.” Apparently one person
by the name of Jacob Zuma has been
forgotten …
• Most literary form of media-writing &
employs conventions such as innuendo,
irony, metaphor, simile, persona …
• Generally keeps the reader’s interest until
the end, when it delivers a punchline.
Uses a pyramid rather than an inverted
pyramid structure.
• Frequently follows the structure of a
classical argument.
Strong openings
Clive James: “Sex changes and organ
transplants dominated the week. I gave
the sex changes a miss, on the grounds
that what’s right for some of us leaves
others of us crossing and uncrossing our
legs while whistling nervously. Organ
transplants, however, are of vital interest
to all.”
Clive James again
Anyone who isn’t watching The Bell (BBC2)
must be craxy. On the other hand,
watching is no guarantee of staying sane.
AA Gill
Mum, dad, sit down please, I've got
something I need to tell you. I suppose I've
known for some time. The signs were
there: the inappropriate pleasure at being
sent cut flowers, discovering that
somehow, by a process of cultural
osmosis, I'd absorbed all the lyrics to
Annie Get Your Gun without ever seeing it,
the fact that I'd rather loiter outside Russell
& Bromley than Dixons.
Ben Trovato
Dear Robert
Do you mind if I call you Robert?
Obergruppenführer McBride sounds so
Maureen Isaacson
We need a woman president who is equal to
the task. Otherwise, give us a man who is
capable of the same. Equality to task is all.
So if the president insists on giving us a
woman successor, she had better have
Karen Blixem
1. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and
murdered by:
a. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi; b. Sitting Bull; c. Arnold
Schwarzenegger; d. Muslim male extremists aged mostly between
17 and 40.
2. 2. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
a. Lost Norwegians; b. Elvis; c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women;
d. Muslim male extremists aged mostly between 17 and 40.
3. During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in
Lebanon by:
a. Ferdi Hartzenberg; b. The king of Sweden; c. The Boy Scouts; d.
Muslim male extremists aged mostly between 17 and 40.
• Abrahams’ definition of satire: "the literary
art of diminishing a subject by making it
ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes
of amusement, contempt, indignation and
Karen Blixem
Krisjan Lemmer
Ben Trovato
Karen Blixem
(Note from the deputy editor: Enough, Ms
Bliksem, enough. The readers and I
certainly do not want to know about your
nocturnal, or diurnal, exploits. Bear in mind
that some of us, as we read this, are
eating breakfast.)
Krisjan Lemmer
Lemmer is pleased to report that the manne are no longer
tittering prudishly over the South African Revenue
Service Web address as reported last week
( However, in the interests of
avoiding more scandalised uproar, Oom Krisjan has
opted to remain tjoepstil about some other shockers,
listed in the Independent’s “Indipedia”; gems such as
Pen Island (, the Experts Exchange
consultants hub (, and of
course, which is either a car-hire firm
in the Cook Islands, or something extremely cheap and
nasty ...
Metaphor - AA Gill
“Well, what would you do?” Miss India
enquires, slightly more sharply than my
mood requires. “What would you do if you
were Miss World?”
And because my mind is already playing
pass the parcel with her sari, I don’t really
think before opening my mouth …
… and again
… a woman I had just met gave me an odd
look & said hesitantly, “You wouldn’t by
any chance like be a judge for Miss
Iceland, would you?”
… I knew this was one of life’s exclamation
Darrel Bristow-Bovey
A walking trademark by virtue of her Crayola
box make-up and mascara that make her
eyes look like two fields of sooty
asparagus spears, she rose to cult status
when she remarried …
Clive James
Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.
It’s only when they go wrong that machines
remind you of how powerful they are.
AA Gill
Sport is how poor kids from poor countries
pass through the eye of the needle to
riches and recognition.