www.whyville.net Oct 17, 2007 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

Cobd's Times Reforms

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Hello Whyvillians! Now, I'll get straight to the point: no articles in the Times are perfect. But we all want them to be. What with freedom of speech and the fact that you all want to write articles that appeal to the entire population, I thought I'd tell you about some of my pet peeves in the Times nowadays. So, in this article, I have published my proposed Times Reforms.


Only die-hard Times Readers will read a Times article straight through no matter what. The first five seconds of the reader seeing that article are crucial. If they see the article without reading the text and it does not look like it contains any content, they may stop reading. Imagine the scene. I'm writing an article about what pets people have.

Cobd: Hey
2010starprincess: Hey
Cobd: May I interview you for the Times?
2010starprincess: Yup

You have already wasted four lines of an interview, in other words, you have already wasted at least 5 seconds of the reader's time. This won't make the reader happy. The same goes for "Thank you, No Problem, Bye" This mindless chatter is irrelevant, uninteresting and in some cases very frustrating. Leave this bit out.

Cobd: Do you have any pets?
2010starprincess: Nope
Cobd: Oh....

You've wasted another five seconds of the reader's time. Things like this can be summarized at the start of the article. Sentences like "I interviewed 20 people, 10 of whom had pets, 10 of whom did not" are good for this sort of question. Let's go on...

Cobd: What pets do you have?
2011moonprince: A rabbit.
Cobd: Wow!

These sort of things can also be surmised somewhere else. "52% of people have rabbits". If you do something along those lines, you then have the rest of the article to talk about other things.

Questions that have limited answers (e.g. Yes, No, Maybe, Rabbit) are called closed questions. I recently saw a Times Writer with these answers to their questions "No, No, Yes, (five word answer removed for anonymity), Nope" then "Yes, No, Yes, (removed), Yes" . Do you honestly believe that this makes good reading? If you have some people who have answered well and have expanded on their answers, keep them in and leave the boring ones out. It is always good to interview more people than you are going to include in your final article. "What if they get upset?" you ask me? Tough cheddar I say to that. You were nice enough to think about including them in your article, they were too lazy to give interesting answers. Whoever they are, whatever they do, do not interview boring people. There are plenty more fishes in the ocean.

However, questions that have a lot of room for discussion are called open questions. These are interesting to read and add something to the article. Here is an example of an open question:

Cobd: What do you think about the exotic pet trade?
2013skyking: I don't think it should be allowed. There is too much room for it to be abused. Sure, it's okay when the pet stores take care of the animals properly but the problem comes when they don't.

Which brings me to my next point. It is a lot easier to ask open questions if you use Y-mail instead of asking them face-to-face (as it were) on Whyville. You have a 150 character limit for each message. In the first three sentences of this paragraph I used 164 characters. How can you have a worthwhile interview if you can't even post three sentences? You can ask people first face-to-face. This guarantees that there'll be online and means that there is more a chance of them replying to you sooner. Again, ask several people. If they don't reply within a certain window, then only use the interviewees who have replied. Pose the questions you wish to ask in the Y-mail. If you have any follow-up questions later, you can ask them in another reply


"Wait a second?" I say to myself as I read the latest Times Published "How do we know those facts are correct?!?!? You claim these facts are real but are you a suncare specialist?! What would happen if "Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 or 55" made my skin go green and my eyeballs pop out?" Yes, I have unfairly victimized MsLolly here but the problem is that I really liked her article. It was really informative but she didn't reference anything. Where did she get her facts? I don't think I'd trust it as much if these facts were from "The spotty, greasy shelf-stacker at Wal-Mart" . I might trust it a little more but still be a bit skeptical if they were from "The Neutrogena Suncare Specialists". Also, what if she copied large chunks of text from these places. We'd never know. So please, any articles that claim facts, make a little note at the end of the article where you got your information from.

And the rest...

There are other things that annoy me about certain elements of the Times that aren't important enough to get their own section...

Articles with no point, typos, articles with pictures but no actual content, the lack of controversy, the lack of scientific articles, Sudoku, people complaining about the Times Editor, people saying they submitted 45384584385438 billion articles and none of them got in, disappearance of "What's New in Whyville", disappearance of "Times Crossword", how I have to find the exact issue my articles in to find the article (it's harder than you think).

Take heed of what I've said in this article. Though I might not be representing the whole opinion of Whyville I feel that after a lengthy career as a Times Writer in 2005 and 2006, I have a good idea of what Whyvillians want from the Times. And feel free to argue with me in the BBS :-D.

This is Cobd...


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