Tribute to author Elmore Leonard
(KPLR) – In Tuesday’s Jacology, Charles Jaco pays tribute to a great American author:
Elmore Leonard died today. He was 87, and wrote a book a year for the past sixty years. Saying he was a crime writer is like saying Herman Melville wrote a book about whales. It’s true, but it doesn’t go far enough. A few years back he wrote…ten rules for writers. Among them,keep your exclamation points under control. Never open a book with weather. Never use the word suddenly. And the most important of all—if it sounds like writing, re-write it. In honor of Elmore Leonard, I’d like to present ten rules for TV reporters.
Rule one. Go easy with allegedly. You can say, police say or prosecutors claim. Or the victim says. But using allegedly just makes the suspect sound guilty. He probably is, but he doesn’t need your help convicting him. Rule two; don’t say I’ve been working on this/or I’ve made phone calls. No one cares what you’ve been doing. They care about the story. Talking about what you’ve been doing just makes it sound like you’re bragging about doing your job.
Rule three; when you interview somebody, ask them to put on their shirt. The audience doesn’t want to see their tats or their body hair. Rule four; don’t interview anybody who you can’t understand. Whether it’s lack of language skills or teeth, someone who can’t talk can’t be on TV. Rule five, no matter what they say; anyone with a gun is always right. Rule six; politicians speak a language all their own. If what they say doesn’t make sense, keep asking them the same question until they lapse into English.
Rule seven; when there’s a weather story, your bosses expect you to stand out in the weather. I know it’s stupid, but dress accordingly. Rule eight; people love children and animals. If you can work a kid or a beagle into a story about the city budget, you have a winner. Rule nine; because you’re a TV reporter, people will assume you’re either a blow-dried airhead or a lair. Don’t be either.
Rule ten; the story is the story. The reporter is not the story. So use as little video of yourself as possible in a story. Remember, you don’t look as good as you think you do. So, is that a sufficient tribute to Elmore Leonard? Maybe. But he’d probably want it re-written.
I’m Charles Jaco and that’s Jacology.