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Next time you read a newspaper or magazine, particularly one who is supposed to be about current facts, pick up a highlighter pen and mark in the text everything that is an interpretation, and leave unhighlighted what’s fact. Now for this exercise, interpretation will mean everything that is not a fact.

What qualifies as fact:

  • concrete data,
    • statistics directly related to the subject,
    • descriptive numbers, like weights and speeds,
  • quotations (when opinions are clearly given as personal),
  • observable, definite events,
  • unambiguous descriptions of relevant objects,
  • anything so absurdly obvious that a three-year (not four!) old could spot,
  • anything that IS, instead of should, would, could.

And everything else is interpretation.

For example:

Barack Obama’s stinging defeat in West Virginia brings a sharp focus on the new coalition he may have to assemble to win the White House in November. West Viginians rejected the presumptive Democratic nominee by a roughly two-to-one margin, one of the widest margins of the primary season. The outcome was the predictable result of familiar demographics: West Virginia’s relatively poor white voters have been Hillary Rodham Clinton’s base since February.

See that “defeat” does not need to be “stinging”? I mean, did anyone go there to Obama and asked him “did it sting?”. No, they didn’t. They just found that it was cool and sounded good to “put some emotion in the text”. I will not discuss style, this is an exercise, and here that will not do!

Now, do it to a real news piece. Tell me the result.


One Comment

  1. Hello there! This post could not be written much better!

    Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly
    will send this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read.
    Thanks for sharing!

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