THE NEWS BUSINESS by John & Walter R. Mears Chancellor


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Veteran newspeople Chancellor, of NBC's Nightly News, and Mears, of AP, have taken their own advice on livening up the routine, predictable story and produced a manual of newswriting with some freshness and verve. There's even a delayed charge of skulduggery: in the press-pool car following JFK at Dallas, AP's Jack Bell was in the back seat, UPI's Merriman Smith was up front with the mobile phone; Smith hogged the phone--and when Bell finally got it, it went dead (""Smith was still the man closest. . .""). Guess who won the Pulitzer? Competition is one--implicit--keynote. Chancellor and Mears also stress ""the necessity of choice"" (""even when it goes against the grain""); explanation--over opinionizing; precision (in using words, in sourcing); and preparation (for dictating a story or ad-libbing on the air). But in working their way through the obligatory topics--leads, color, analysis, words, sources, delivery--they cite good and bad examples, proffer shirtsleeves advice (""Don't swear in everyday conversation""--it limits your vocabulary), speak in their own, separate voices (Mears: ""I think you were wrong on that one. . .""), and address a few issues. (""The Janet Cooke case did not involve unidentified sources. It involved the veracity of a reporter."") The network-news/wire-agency frame of reference means that the emphasis is away from local newspaper reporting; some may be surprised, however, to learn how much writing Chancellor did, and does. And a clear plus is the attention to the differing demands of print and broadcast reporting. What was Chancellor to say, for instance, when Nixon announced his decision to resign? ""I looked into the camera and said one word. I said, with a sort of sigh of relief, 'Well.' "" Easy-to-take, widely applicable lessons.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row