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Tip: Write Like It’s 1963, Not 2013

Like an etching carved into granite, there is a permanence to the observations, words and comments that will be made, not only in your own writings, but those of others.  Because of that, even the best-intended project may be met with resistance if you don’t make known early — and often — two priorities that are likely of profound, yet perhaps unspoken, importance to your subject:  Your assurance to protect his legacy and your commitment to accurate, complete story-telling.

Protecting Legacy:   Public spotlight, especially through a website that will potentially be read by hundreds of people (including some who are total strangers) may raise understandable concerns in the mind of your about subject about how he will be perceived. I compare it to the awkwardness most people feel when they suddenly become self-aware, for example, when posing for a picture in a public setting.  At that moment, there’s a heightened sensitivity about appearances and “looking good.”  The same thing can happen when you write about someone else, even if it’s someone who loves, trusts and respects you.  So use a “reverse-angle” when proof-reading your work. Ask yourself, “Would I want someone to say this about me?” and you’ll have a starting point for protecting the legacy and reputation of your subject.

Commitment to Accurate, Complete Story-Telling: Almost equal in importance to protecting legacy is a commitment to 100% accuracy in the publishing of all stories, captions, photos and video.  In the internet era of mass media, where mistakes are routinely corrected with the update of a webpage, Facebook post, or tweet, expediency has overshadowed accuracy.  If you embrace this outlook, minor mistakes such as misspellings, wrong dates, misidentified people, and other grammatical errors may erode essential credibility and trust, not only with your readers, but your subject as well. Instead, think of yourself like a 1963 newspaper printing press rolling out news of Kennedy’s assassination.  Get it right the first time as if you have no chance to update the newspaper on the doorstep of your subscriber.

Posted in: Making of SDNT

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