How can you determine quality in…writing?

Understanding ‘quality’ is as much to do with information provided, as it is a sensory issue, and journalist, Iain Robertson, looks at several aspects of the attribute.

Listen to despairing cries from the publishing scene and you might believe in its apparent mantra that ‘print is dead!’. Yet, knee-jerk reactions to atmospheric change allied to the relentless march of technology are really little more than that. While it might be fun to dab a finger on a screen, it can be, in reality, just as messy on-screen, as removing printer’s ink from your fingers after leafing through a daily.

In-Spec Quality Assurance

Although the changes in the print industry have been gradual, only accelerating at lightning speed through the past 10-15 years, believing itself to be ‘under threat’, it allowed quality standards to slip to unanticipated lows. Many of them surrounded the quality of the writers, an affliction that can be linked directly to a slump in education standards that had been wrought by politicians stating that it was ‘every child’s inalienable right to attend a place of further education’, without contemplating a need to earn that right.

Yet, the issues related to rights have not taken into account the need to be able to write in the first place. Sadly, most on-line content, lacking the judicious read-through that was normally the remit of the print publication’s chief sub-editor (a primary casualty of print industry cost cuts), suffers from a blend of poor grammar, abysmal punctuation, weak syntax and atrocious spelling.

While national news print almost manages to keep its head above water, the regional outlets have dwindled largely into an also-ran classification. Their demands for a larger slice of local advertising income, usually ‘sold’ by inexperienced and unprofessional sales executives, whose primary fascination lies in their expense accounts and company cars, without decent follow-through, led to a greater reliance on national news and not the local cornerstones that they used to be.

While journalism used to be a revered profession, a combination of laziness and inadequate funding (remuneration) has reduced literary standards to a near point of no return. Sadly, it is a condition that has afflicted the entire writing industry, whether the words come from PR, marketing and other agencies, or not. It has been aided and abetted by the very technology that has been said to improve our lives and social statuses. If you have ever been on the receiving end of ‘txt’ messages, then you might understand the situation better.

In many respects, the influence of Quality Control on the nation’s production lines, despite technological advances, is a prime case of a need to eradicate perceived problems by traditional means. ISQA is a business that benefits its clients positively by enhancing value and removing critical issues before they become problematic and start eating into profitability.

A critical mass is occurring in the ‘new media’ sector, with many PR and marketing entities now demanding engagement with ‘wordsmiths’, specialists that can ensure that their wordy output is at best readable. However, print is actually far from deceased, as the consumer is starting to demand the tactility and relative warmth of a newspaper, magazine, or periodical, that the purported convenience of a digital machine cannot provide.

As to the once-loved regional press, when it realises that an investment in its quality standards is its salvation, a reversion to professional redaction will occur and, maybe, we might have stories worth reading. At the end of the day, content is king and quality is essential, although investment is vital.

‘Make Quality Count!’

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