What makes for a perfect paragraph?

Enter key

Picture by Artur Cimoch, freeimages.com

Long ago, at school, there was probably an English lesson about how and where to break text into paragraphs.

As I remember it, the idea was that one thought meant one paragraph, like this in a story from the Guardian:

“The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact,” Fatty said. “It has been confirmed by technicians in the ministry of finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia.”

There are two sentences there, but they both relate to the question of how much money may be missing in The Gambia.

Compare that to the same thought in the Daily Mail:

But amid growing controversy over the assurances offered to Jammeh to guarantee his departure, Barrow aide Mai Fatty said the new administration had discovered that millions had recently been stolen.

‘The coffers are largely empty,’ he told reporters in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Here, the Mail is applying what seems to be the modern trend, particularly in online articles: the end of every single sentence is a sign to hit the enter key and make a paragraph.

That makes for easy, fast editing and writing, and there is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading

Good taste does not equal good governance

This is going to be a very irritating few days – on Facebook at least.
On Friday, Donald Trump is going to be inaugurated as United States president. Barack Obama and family will take their bows and move on with their lives. My Facebook echo chamber, populated with journalists and eco-warriors and people of a politically correct persuasion, will be filled with shared photo essays of the gorgeous Obamas and many, many WTFs as our favourite American news websites (think Washington Post here) document all the varied failures of The Donald and his flashy family.
Here’s the thing though: the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. Continue reading

Why I still believe in journalism

Picture_freeimages.com

Picture: freeimages.com

When I was a teenager I was intense and clever, a misfit loner. I went off to university pretty much unchanged and emerged four years later a little more sophisticated but still essentially a right pain to be around.
I was about to get lucky – I was offered a job at the Cape Times. I was sent off to cadet school in Port Elizabeth, spent six months working on the EP Herald, and then returned to Cape Town as the most junior of junior reporters in a big and busy newsroom.
I didn’t know it then but I had found my home.
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Moments of joy, found on a wall

Cat On A Warm African Night

Cape Town – A long time ago I bought a painting.

It was hanging in a small shop in Muizenberg village, and was called Cat On A Warm African Night. I fell in love with it instantly but it cost R850, a great deal of money at the time. I hummed and hawed but I had to have it. Eventually I bought it (all this time later I can’t remember where I found the money as it was certainly before I had a credit card). It has hung on the wall of all the places I have lived since, casting its benevolent gaze over my life. Every time I see it, my spirit lifts.

Last weekend, I bought another painting. Continue reading

Saving the world, one dog at a time

A dog of uncertain mind and big heart.

Cape Town – A long time ago I copied down something out of Time magazine, from an interview with the Dalai Lama.

This is what he said: “Whenever I leave a hotel room, I always try to switch off the light. In a way, it’s silly. But if another ten persons follow my example, then 100 persons, there is an effect. From that point of view, I believe that constant effort, tireless effort, pursuing clear goals with sincere effort is the only way. It’s the only way! The bigger nations and more powerful leaders are not taking care. And God is also somewhere asleep, I think. So we poor human beings, we must make the attempt.”

This last week I met some people who are making the attempt. Continue reading

Dinner, with a side order of story

Cape Town – “So,” said the rather vexed voice,” they’ve moved in, with two cats.”

“Of course,” she continued,”my father-in-law can’t organise anything at all.”

The cashier wanted my card, so I missed the answer.

The same cross voice continued: “And he’s started drinking again.”

I missed the next bit as my shopping was handed to me.

“We must do lunch,” said another voice.

I had to stop myself from going over and asking if I too could come to the lunch. Why, I wanted to know, were the cats such a problem? What had the father-in -law failed to organise? And who, for the love of all that is holy, had started drinking again?
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Welcome to my Great Big Bad Hair Life

Cape Town – When I was at school, there was a girl who had shiny, straight, black hair.

I wanted her hair more than almost anything.

Mine was (and is) an unmanageable mess – a wavy, frizzy, bumpy, boring brown mass of hair. Short or long, it has kinks and cowslicks and crinkles, and a tendency to go to dreadlocks if I neglect to brush it with great fierceness at least twice a day.

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