If you want to be an effective, compelling, convincing dishonest writer, there are certain steps you need to take.
Steps such as deliberately employing leading language, particularly adjectives and adverbs…
Steps such as throwing around irrelevant facts…
And steps such as conveniently leaving out facts, which is our topic for today. To illustrate this, we’re going to use perhaps an extreme example in an effort to keep this politically neutral.
Let’s say you’re writing about a major public figure, Tara Brevett-Owens, who just lost her daughter, Regina. The girl was 17 years old, had already been accepted to both Princeton and Columbia Universities, and was heavily involved in a worthwhile local charity.
By all accounts, she was an all-American sweetheart.
Yet the circumstances surrounding her death are extremely suspicious. According to her mother, she went out for a jog after school on Tuesday, October 16, and never came back. A random hiker found her body in a wooded area some 25 miles away with no signs of assault but deadly levels of prescription meds in her system – prescription meds that her mother just happens to have.
Ms. Brevett-Owens says Regina was extremely depressed after her boyfriend broke up with her in September. However, Regina’s best friend says it was the domineering Ms. Brevett-Owens who made Regina do the breaking up.
Here’s how you could spin the story if you wanted to be a convincing dishonest writer…
Today, media mogul Tara Brevett-Owens is mourning the death of her beloved daughter, Regina Owens, a young woman with so much potential who was taken from us far too soon.
Regina was a well-known member of her community, where she volunteered with High Schoolers for Hope and taught Sunday school at Elizabethtown United Methodist Church. Accepted by not one but two ivy league institutions, she had the whole world ahead of her.
However, her grieving mother admits that Regina struggled with bouts of intense depression that had flared up again last month after a failed relationship. “I tried to get her help,” Ms. Brevett-Owens said in the brief interview she managed to have with Elizabethtown Channel 4. “Clearly, I didn’t get her enough. Or maybe I just didn’t get her the right kind. And now my baby is gone forever.”
To help prevent similar tragedies in the future, Ms. Brevett-Owens will be donating $1 million to the LLPOF suicide prevention fund.
That’s it. That’s the end. No mention of the best friend is necessary when you have an agenda and don’t care about the facts.
Of course, hopefully, you don’t have an agenda and you do care about the facts. So, hopefully, you have no intention to be a dishonest writer at all.
But even writers who want to be honest can fall into the same sort of traps outlined above and over the last three weeks. We all have our prejudices and preconceived notions and inaccurate opinions, all of which can blind us to any prejudiced, preconceived and/or inaccurate information we publish.
By 1) recognizing that about ourselves and 2) knowing how intentionally dishonest writers operate, we can better avoid becoming unintentionally dishonest writers along the way. Which is a very good thing.
There’s enough dishonesty going around these days. Best to nip it in the bud whenever possible.