Let’s face it. The Bible, and much of subsequent history would be a lot more entertaining if Moses had dumped his tablets of stone and, instead, come down the mountain clutching a coffee-stained newslist.
Out goes adultery, in comes Confessions of a Sexy Lovenest.
The only difference between the 10 Commandments and a news list is that one has divine approval, the other merely dictated by God.
The list is a holy news document embedded with near-mystical significance. Mystical because most of it has been imagined by its long-suffering author, the news editor, and is unlikely to survive morning conference.
While originally conceived as an editorial document to simply list the main news stories of the day and the importance of same, lists are actually a daily exercise in the news editor rewriting their CV twice a day.
And for news editors who have long-since ceased to write it remains largely their own creative outlet – and in the case of tabloid desk editors, as close to fiction as harry potter.
The list should be a decent summary of the days events, acting as mini-schedule for the upcoming news agenda. Brimming with bright ideas, exclusives and, satisfyingly for editors, follow-ups that urinate all over their darkest rival’s current s[plash.
In actual fact, most newslists are a smorgasbord of lifted listlines, reheated ideas spotted on Reddit and the letters pages of rivals. The craftiest news editors acknowledge other newspapers stories with an attempt to follow-up genuine original stories hiding the fact they’ve been scooped entirely with brash claims about doorknocking the protagonist.
Foolish news editors start their careers on the desk assuming the list is for the benefit fo the reporters whose names are assigned to story ideas. This is, of course, wrong.
The list is the only shield for a news editor in conference. And as we’ve outlined before – conference is not for the faint-hearted.
The list’s partner in crime is the Picture List. Your closest ally in any conference situation is going to be the picture editor. For their list either confirms your most heinous lie
Yes, of course we have a snapper on the door. He’s with the reporter.
This is code for:
What bloody grave have you dug for us now?
In a tight spot, the picture editor will dig out their News Editor with a set of newborn puppies or a red carpet dress disaster to distract the Editor long enough for the News Editor to regain their composure under fire.
The list goes through a number of incarnations during the day as reality fails to live up to expectations – the Morning List and the Evening list.
Like dew on a meadow, exposed to any light whatsoever and it will be gone within hours. This is the first of many holding positions by the News Editor for the day ahead. Merely caltrops before the Editor’s cavalry. A few riders will be taken down but most of the charge will continue unhindered.
This list is All The Stuff We Wish We’d Had The Night Before And Stuff We’ve Blatantly No Time To Make Work
This will include call to actions such as Seeking, Doorstepping, Chasing, En Route to in a bid to show the Newsdesk has bothered waking up to breaking news – when the grim reality is working out how to make the hangover go away.
Editors can be forgiving as long as the news editor has made some attempt to list Things We’ve Heard On The News and an overnight crime spree. Throw in a good rumour that stands no chance of working out and you’ll probably get out of there alive.
As a treat, the Editor will lob an unchasable story onto your plate as a measure of goodwill.
Less a list and more of a last will and testament
Despite buying yourself 10 hours of thinking time, and despite promises from your trusted lieutenants and reporters to find Lord Lucan, solve the JFK assassination or proof of life on Mars, your list now faces a savaging. Chief sub – and their pesky obsession with facts – will be there to lend a hand.
The game of show-and-tell is well and truly on. In the face of abject failure to complete any of the above, the news editor now only has a few listlines before being fired on the spot.
Aware that their list is about to be shredded as part of the ritual humiliation of conference, the seasoned news editor hides their best story away from the collateral damage of the top of the list and tucks it strategically away two-thirds of the way in.
Far enough from ground zero and insulated from the tsunami of contempt that has now poisoned the sacrificial lambs at the top of the list – dull politics, a sad but ultimately uninspiring death or two – the Editor sashays through the remainder content that THIS will be the conference he or she will finally gain the scalp they crave.
Until, nuzzling between a survey by a PR firm and a picture spread on puppies-doing-the-funniest-things, they stub their toe on the splash:
EXCLUSIVE How I Fought Off Raider Gang With Toothbrush While My Daughter Caught The Whole Thing On Her iPhone.
Congratulations. Your pint is waiting, Your sacking is not today, at least.
Categories: Journalese, A User's Guide