We write about MediaWorks’ new style guide in the style of the Herald.
MediaWorks spent last year unpacking a Russian doll of disaster.
The company dealt with public backlash over show cancellations, flagging ratings, and its gossip site Scout’s transformation into an internet version of an elephant graveyard.
It should have been breathing a sigh of relief at the arrival of 2016.
Instead it’s set to be engulfed in scandal again this afternoon, with a document leaked to The Spinoff showing it has implemented a sensible style guide for its new news brand, Newshub.
The guide, which sets out a series of useful rules governing how Newshub reporters should write, is a corporate self-uppercut from which the company will, in all likelihood, never recover.
Style guides are used by most major media organisations, and MediaWorks will surely perish in a trash bonfire for establishing one of its own at Newshub.
We have annotated the damning document in full below.
To all staff
Newshub’s launch is an opportunity to remind ourselves to put the audience first.
Since they don’t refer to each other by their surnames, we are re-introducing honorifics (that means using Mr, Mrs and Ms and not just surnames) across all platforms from Feb 1.
Spinoff: Okay Queen Victoria Esq., but why not re-establish a landed gentry, open a blacksmithing side-business, and sail off to discover America while you’re at it?
We’ll use them for everyone apart from criminals – and sportspeople. Sportspeople have both names on first mention.
Spinoff: A few things:
- Why are you treating sportspeople like criminals?
- Is there a way for criminals to earn back their honorific for good behaviour? This is very punitive.
- What do you do with Ms Oprah? Ms Lorde? Mr Coolio?
Newshub’s conversational writing style is driven by wanting to talk with our audience not at them. It’s as simple as swapping ‘Police are trying to establish his identity’ to ‘Police are trying to find out who he is’ (Spinoff: Insert fullstop)
Our writing remains credible – not lazy, not slang. But instead of using jargon, we’ll interpret it. Sentences will be short and easy to read. No sub-clauses. Active writing not passive.
Spinoff: How dare you prevail these directives upon your employees, especially after they have toiled unceasingly to establish a news brand in the face of a panoply of thinkpieces about their work?
We’ll think twice before using the usual suspects/talking heads; we’ll make an effort to talk to real people not just spokespeople.
6pm stories and longer form digital stories must have context and, where possible, analysis. We need to say not only what happened – most of the audience will know that already – (Spinoff: Alert: Sub-clause) but also why it happened, who it affects, what they can do about it and where the story will go next.
Spinoff: This all sounds pretty good actually.