17 Jun 2009 8:11 pm   //   Filed under: Media

Poets as reporters

The Forward has a story about a newspaper in Israel that, for one day, asked authors and poets to write the news:

Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….” The TV review by Eshkol Nevo opened with these words: “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” And the weather report was a poem by Roni Somek, titled “Summer Sonnet.” (“Summer is the pencil/that is least sharp/in the seasons’ pencil case.”)

What an excellent idea! Once. (Memo to Newsweek: No.) All of us who write news should aspire to wield language as forcefully and precisely as a poet. But reimagining the conventions of journalism every time you write a business story would be hard to do and tiresome for readers. It would get in the way of efficiency, a too-often-neglected quality in reporting.