Translating corporate statements into journalism
Robert MacMillan, an editor at Reuters, writes Tuesday about the process of translating corporate statements into useful English that can be used in business news stories while he visits the wire service’s Bangalore, India bureau.
MacMillan writes, “The easiest way to make that pain vanish is to accept what the companies say. We’re working people; we just want to do our piece for our subscribers, our readers and our bosses and get the hell out of work and go home and relax. After all, journalism might be a noble profession or a vile one, depending on whom you ask, but for most of us, we’re trying to get through the day and tell people some things that they want to know.
“All of us at Reuters and our competitors deal with this. Our Bangalore bureau deals with it more than most. These reporters and editors deal with the heavy volume of company statements. They’re the ones who publish the early versions of the stories that our beat reporters later update and prettify. You could say they’re just moving the copy, but their obligation, as much as anybody else’s, is to interpret what’s going on. They also have to do it within minutes, then update, then do it again, all while knowing that at some point, if the story is important enough, someone else is going to get the byline. A shared credit often is the best there is.
“The challenge we face in that bureau is how we move quickly while properly analyzing what the hell is going on when some company releases an incoherent statement. We need to find the drama and the narrative and say it correctly and say it quickly. Not easy. Every New York reporter who did this before we moved these operations to Bangalore knows it. When we do those things, people understand the importance of the news to their lives – or maybe sometimes just their portfolios – but sometimes their lives.”
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