JOURNALISM 101 – 4-3-19

Journalism is no different than art. That’s my take this week anyway.

There’s not much to report as far as drag racing is concerned with any real importance, although this week is the second running of the Four-Wide event in Las Vegas which should be interesting. SFG also announced upping the guaranteed winner’s share of their $500K event in June to pay a guarantee of $525,000 to the winner. There’s also talk from them of paying a guaranteed $1,000,000 to win race in 2020. That could be pretty huge to be the first to pay out that amount.

Typically, the spring NHRA Las Vegas race has been a dud as far as spectator attendance. There were times when I think you could shoot a shotgun (ooohhh, can we say that in Vegas?) off in the stands and not hit anyone. So what do they do for last year? Add two more lanes and call it a Four-Wide event. What happens? The place is packed. But so were the first few years of the Four-Wide race in Charlotte, which we’ll be at later this April. The crowd in Charlotte in the spring is still good, but just not what was at the first one. It will be interesting to see how this second Vegas Four-Wide transpires.

That being said, this is something which has been on my mind for a long time. There’s a saying that “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” And actually, journalism is a form of art. I have been accused (not in a bad way) that I write the way I talk. Having been on several stages in front of a crowd at one time or another, I really believe I write better than I talk, but that’s another story. The truth is that I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to write. Yes, there are some basic rules, but once they’re followed, the rest is open to interpretation.

I had a managing editor years ago who would change my words of a story. She felt as if they were better written in her own way. Granted she probably spent more time in a journalism class than I did, after all, most of my time in a journalism class was spent with my head in a car magazine. But I’m thinking if my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. DaCosta, knew what I was doing now, she’d be beating my knuckles with a ruler (you could do that back then). So if my time spent in a journalism class was better spent in other areas, I still subscribe to the notion of “common sense,” no matter what I do. However, oftentimes the ME would change the actual context of the story, to which we had several “discussions.”

Here’s a fact as far as I’m concerned. The Holy Bible was written, what, like centuries ago? Since that time, there have been numerous versions written and re-written many times over. In each version, I’m sure it made the read easier for our day and age. The way people spoke centuries ago, is not the way we speak today. I’m sure each new version didn’t change the actual facts of the story, but it made it easier to understand.

I used to have an art professor from a local college come into my shop and dig through our scrap bin. She’d then have us weld together some of these pieces which she’d call structural art. I had other names for it but I was amazed to attend one of her art symposiums where people would ogle at the pieces and try to imagine what they represented. Me? I knew what they represented – junk – but to each his own.

One of my kids had an art teacher who would often tell him or her; although it had to be her as she still is very “artsy;” that what she did was wrong. What we tried to explain was there really is no right or wrong in art. It is what you make of it. I look at journalism as the same way. Okay, so there are the basics, but generally speaking, it’s still art. Placing quote marks in the correct spot, punctuation and the use of the correct grammar, correct spacing and other typographical checks are just some of the basics. After that…

In addition, I believe we need to write to our audience. In our case, the majority of our readers are not philosophical doctorates of the English language. I guarantee if we wrote like that, you would have put our magazine down after the first paragraph. We don’t call a time slip a “slip of paper with your times on it,” nor do we say you’ve “entered the starting line area ready to race.” If you’re pulling to the starting line, we’re assuming you’re ready to race. Duh. “I speak your language cause I is one.” That’s probably not grammatically right but…

So much for my two-cents this week. -John DiBartolomeo