Of course, the presentation Andrew King and Delphine Reuter from the European Journalism Centre gave us was not about some upside down Egyptian tomb architecture, but it sort of did turn upside down the conceptions which the 20 editors and contributors present previously had about writing. But before getting back to the pyramid, here are our lessons learnt:
Life’s a tale to tell. So tell it. There is a story in everything. Even the most boring EU policy topic contains that one piece of drama that every journalists strives to hunt down. And so the revision of the amendment to the proposal on the green paper by the committee on 'whatever' and 'who cares?' becomes the love-hate relationship between two different groups of politicians. Writing for online media is not writing committee minutes. It’s about informing, but also about entertaining one’s readers.
All those people out there that are reading your articles will feel neglected, annoyed, or angry when you don’t care for them. Readers are a sensitive breed. They want attention, they want to be taken seriously; they want to be caressed by your writing. So ask yourself what you’d like to read and – even more importantly – get to know the people you’re writing for. Learn what they care about, learn how they communicate, learn how they react to your writing.
You’re not important. If you are Barack Obama, Angela Merkel or José Barroso, skip this paragraph. If not, chances are no one actually cares about what you personally have to say. So don’t simply convey your opinion. Don’t comment on anything that can’t escape the grasp of your writing fingers quickly enough. Instead, make your articles interesting by including different views, by showing that you actually know what is happening out there – and that you do not just look at things from your ivory tower.
More Shakespeare, less bullshit. The Brussels bubble is full of decidedly significant considerably actually completely unnecessary verbal and written formulations and tautologies (see what I did there?). Ever wondered why it is called a “bubble”? It has its own dialect. Jettison all that – the English language has so much in store for you. Make yourself understood by using everyday language. In the end, you would not talk to someone in hundred word-sentences (or would you?) Don’t use slang, but be comprehensible and engaging. And bear in mind that not everyone knows what an INI of the PECH on the CAP’s status in the MFF is.
Brevity is the soul of wit. Admit it: how often do you quit reading a text thoroughly after only two or three paragraphs? How often do you get screen fatigue when you have to read long papers online? You do not want this to happen to the readers of your articles. Being concise is necessary when writing online. That’s it.
The inverted pyramid, at last. Though irresponsible and illogical in a physical sense, in reporting you have to bring everything that weighs heavily to the top. Tell the important facts first, convey the news before you get lost in the meta-analysis of what you're reporting on. As an example: no one wants to read an analysis of different models of public policy before they learn that EU institutions have agreed on next year’s budget. Aside from keeping your readers interested, this inverted pyramid strategy gives you an easy way of shortening an article in the event that the editors have to provide you with less space than promised.
Johannes Uhl is the Intern Life editor of Internal Voices and a trainee at the European Parliament