Formula one

The man, the suit, the haircut, the legend: Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder, the news anchor turned host of the long-defunct “Tomorrow” show on NBC, would occasionally get asked about writing.  He would famously reply:  “I can’t write.  But I can write 90 seconds of television.”

Snyder’s answer was a snarky assessment of TV news as much as his own talent.  It also overlooked the genuinely thoughtful writers of TV news:  Charles Osgood, David Brinkley, Bob Dotson and Tom Petit (who? I loved Petit in the 80s) on a national level; Marc Pickard, Jon Shirek, Jaye Watson, Jerry Carnes, Jeff Dore, Randy Travis and a few others locally.

For the rest of us, see the video above.

When I worked at a TV station that valued every manner of so-called breaking news, and boilerplate surveillance-video “exclusives,” (“take a good look at this man…”) I often leaned on formulaic writing.  With every deadline seemingly a few minutes away, and the stories mere variations of the story told the day before, the formula worked.  Nobody called me on it, because the stories were clean, understandable and made slot.  My formula included the occasional offbeat adjective or adverb, which gave the writing a bit of faux creativity.  But I knew it was formulaic.

Writer's bloc: Ross McLaughlin, Marc Pickard, Chris Sweigart, Jennifer "Jaye" Watson, Shawn Hoder, Jon Shirek, Bill Liss, Jerry Carnes (taking a knee) and your blogger - WXIA

My position at WXIA has raised my game somewhat.  The stories are more varied.  The talent in the newsroom, writing-wise, is the best I’ve ever seen.  But this blog also plainly showcases the limitations of my own writing talent, which seems to lean to the straightforward, with a decent grasp of basic high school grammar and spelling but little flourish.  Every morning, I wake up irritated that I can’t write with the elegance of Shirek or Pickard, or with the madcap observational ability of this guy.

I’m now struggling a bit, writing-wise, with some specials that will air in February.  The subject matter calls for new formulas.

I’ll figure it out.  But my inspiration won’t come from Charlie Brooker or Tom Snyder, though both men are obviously inspired in their own way.

Snyder, especially, for the haircut alone.

This entry was posted in WXIA on by .

About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

6 thoughts on “Formula one

  1. jcburns

    That picture (of you and your WXIA colleagues) is really much cooler than a bunch of people in red shirts waving at a helicopter from the parking lot. Just..uh..saying.

  2. LBJ

    RIP Tom Snyder. My Hero. But don’t discount your style – the work you did for Storer was some of the the best I’ve seen here. Nice group shot…

  3. longgone

    Hey man…

    Say Hi to everyone there for me.
    I’ve been “longgone” for a while now, but I miss the internal competitiveness and collegiality of group efforts… it makes you better, just ’cause you want to be better than that guy over there… next to you.

    Don’t disrespect yourself… they don’t drop Emmys on too many dolts. I have always liked your style… it is different, it makes you stand-out. Great writing is great, I’m not downplaying any of that… but so is the ability to stand out in other ways.


  4. JeremyK

    I don’t know if I agree with the humble “little flourish” assessment. Your stories often feature a snarky dry wit that I’ve always assumed was intentionally understated. The words, combined with the delivery, may not be Boyd Huppert-esque, but they do define a style. The “cheapskate-chicskate” standup in your flashy rims story from last year comes to mind.

    So many reporters have no style to speak of. They’re no different from the rest as far as viewers are concerned. And that only lends to the ever-declining enthusiasm toward local news.

  5. live apt fire Post author

    This post was intended as a brief moment of honest self-examination, brought on by numerous LAF readers and Facebook friends who’d sent the Charlie Brooker video (plus an excuse to genuinely praise some writers who deserve it, plus an excuse to post the Tom Snyder / Johnny Rotten video, which I actually watched when it aired.)

    To my horror, it now dawns on me that this post may be read as a pathetic attempt to wring compliments out of my LAF readers. This was not my intention, I assure you. Thanks for the kind words.


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