Speed and the Inverted Pyramid

My fingers are not happy with me. I’m racing against time and turkey to finish a week’s worth of freelance articles by Wednesday night. In pursuit of my goal, I’ve written four articles in the past two days — and I’m already working on the fifth. Normally, I wouldn’t rush a project, but with the holiday weekend, I need to be present; not off in a corner typing away.

When you’re writing fast to get ahead of a deadline, it’s easy to let your inner editor slack off. In the hurry to meet the word count, typos and inaccuracies slip through the cracks. Even the best writers do it. That’s why so many breaking news stories are later found out to be false. When there’s pressure to get it done fast, there is a tendency to cut corners.

But that doesn’t make it right. We’re all pressed for time; that doesn’t mean we get an ethical (or even a grammatical) get out of jail free card. I don’t have the time I normally devote to each piece, but I know people are reading my work with the expectation that everything I say is true. I owe them that.

To maximize my time and the integrity of the final product, I’m doing a few things. First, I’m still sourcing everything. It takes a bit longer to confirm something I already know, but it’s worth it to have corroboration. Second, I’m sticking with my most trusted sources. This isn’t the week to scope out a new newspaper or academic think tank for material. This week, it’s just the old favorites. Finally, I’m sticking to inverted pyramid form, the standard journalistic structure. By writing to an established formula, I’m removing one variable from my process. I just plug and chug.

With luck, I’ll get to take Thanksgiving off, knowing my articles are safely in my editor’s hands, free of mistakes and misinformation. And my fingers can rest up for next week.

— 30 —

Jonny Eberle is a freelance writer in Tacoma, WA. He takes his journalistic ethics seriously, but lets loose on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

%d bloggers like this: