The biggest let down as a journalist is when one has to write a non-story that does not have any news values. It’s a disaster.
It’s like a chef of a restaurant trying to make a nice wholesome meal with the crappiest minimal ingredients. Wouldn’t the chef feel irritated for having to serve the people who came to the restaurant with blah food? Wouldn’t the customers feel cheated?
Difficult sources, complex issues, extensive background research, remote area of coverage, tight deadline are some of the challenges for reporters to gather materials for their news reports. But even those difficulties are somewhat enjoyable for reporters, knowing that hard work in tackling these challenges will lead them to solid materials for a story. Something that’s new, important, informative, interesting, and timely.
But give a reporter a task to report on a recurring issue, a recycled theme, something without anything new in it, something without an interesting angle, like say, the traffic jams in Jakarta, (This is an extreme example) then it’s deliberate torture for the reporter, not to mention the poor readers who have to read old news.
Unless there’s an interesting angle, something new in this theme, like new potholes, or a new Electronic Road Pricing system, or a new busway route, or increased taxes for automobiles, or a controversial death of asphyxiation in a traffic jam. A story about traffic jam in Jakarta is just not worth writing or reading. Readers will throw away their newspapers and say: “Tell me something new”.
When I encounter these unworthy themes in my work as a journalist (result of a boring press conference, a lame assignment from an editor, a quiet week, or an occasional dull story idea from my own unimaginative way of thinking), I’ll hope for the privilege to drop the story.
Otherwise, gathering information will be a bland task. I’ll lose inspiration in throwing out the questions that I have to ask. (It’s all been answered anyway). The quotes will be stale. And putting it into writing will be torment.
Sitting in front of the computer, I would put my fingers on the keyboard, attempting to type something that would fit as a decent lead. The words would elude me and frustration ascends.
In this kind of situation, it’s easy for me to say that I’ve got a writer’s block. But, that’s just an excuse. I don’t think writer’s block exist in non-fiction writing. With good materials, one should be able to escape that.
In the case of writing a non-story, it’s no longer a writer’s block. It’s just pure simple bad news judgment to start with.
What do you think? Have you ever feel irritated reading an article in a newspaper that doesn’t give you any new information?
* I have been given a task to write about something that from my judgment is a non-story. Hence, this blog post. I’m going to finish the story as the powers that be wants me to do it, but I’ll try to spare myself from writing non-stories in the future.