Wick Communications

Ten magic phrases

In Uncategorized, Writing techniques on 20 May 2010 at 8:33 pm

Continuing to steal stuff off the Internet, here’s something I found from the late great Michael O’Donoghue. If you are of a certain age, you may remember him. He used to write for National Lampoon and appeared on Saturday Night Live from time to time in the show’s early years. Here he discusses journalism… It’s all in good fun and I thought we could use a little of that this week. — Clay

Have you ever wondered how reporters are able to turn out a dozen or so news articles day after day, year after year, and still keep their copy so fresh, so vital, so alive? It’s because they know The Ten Magic Phrases of Journalism, key constructions with which one can express every known human emotion! As one might suppose, The Phrases, discovered only after centuries of trial and error, are a closely guarded secret, available to no one but accredited members of the press. However, at the risk of being cashiered from the Newspaper Guild, I am now going to reveal them to you:

The Ten Magic Phrases of Journalism

  1. “violence flared”
  2. “limped into port”
  3. “according to informed sources”
  4. “wholesale destruction”
  5. “no immediate comment”
  6. “student unrest”
  7. “riot-torn”
  8. “flatly denied”
  9. “gutted by fire”
  10. “roving bands of Negro youths”

Let’s try putting The Phrases to work in a sample news story…

NEWARK, NJ, Aug. 22 (UPI) – Violence flared yesterday when roving bands of Negro youths broke windows and looted shops in riot-torn Newark. Mayor Kenneth Gibson had no immediate comment but, according to informed sources, he flatly denied saying that student unrest was behind the wholesale destruction that resulted in scores of buildings being gutted by fire, and added, “If this city were a Liberian freighter,* we just may have limped into port.”

*Whenever needed, “Norwegian Tanker” can always be substituted for “Liberian freighter.” Consider them interchangeable.

Proof positive that The Ten Magic Phrases of Journalism can express every known human emotion and then some!

Michael O’Donoghue


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