Monday, April 03, 2006

Bad Writing 101

Two major features stuck in my craw recently. In one, Alex Witchel of the NYT profiled the playwright Richard Greenberg. After hanging out with Greenberg for a week, Witchel decided she could see into his soul and give us insight into the real Greenberg. Her piece ended with this annoyingly pretentious reference to a story he'd told earlier: "But no hard feelings. Three plays in four months will subsume him just the way he likes. Talk and parry, write and parry, parry and retreat. But perhaps, by virtue of the seasons, in the midst of it all, he'll find another window. No one seeing, no one knowing. And it will once again be spring." Oy.

Rolling Stone did the same with Simon Cowell, offering up this final image: the online version is an excerpt, but it ends with Simon playing the lad, and puffing away on his cigarettes in the little igloos hideaway he constructed as a child to get away from the adults. Urgh.

Then I read my friend Joe Neumaier's two profiles in the NY Daily News (Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas) and they do exactly what I always try to do: end with a quote from the artist; you know, the famous person that people actually want to hear from? I think most of the time that your job is to presenting interesting comments from the stars, not offer up your own worldly philosophy. So here's a good rule of thumb for bad journalism: when the writer ends with their own words instead of the person they're interviewing, you know they're full of themselves.

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