„How do you define quality journalism?
When you’ve been around a long time, and I’ve been in the business 50 years, it sounds corny but you just know. You know when you’re reading something and you think »this is great« or you’re reading something and you think »this is crap« or you’re reading something and think »this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about«.
How do you know when it’s good?
It’s not just show off-iness. Not just who’s got the biggest access to Roget’s Thesaurus, who uses the biggest words and the longest sentences. Kevin Rudd-speak doesn’t make it quality.
I find increasingly that simplicity of language is good. Although you can take it to the nth degree – I recall when I first joined The Sydney Sun as a police reporter in the ’60s, somebody had told me that it [good writing] was no more than six words to a sentence and no more than one sentence to a paragraph. So my first couple of stories read like I was paying for it by the word.
I think a bit of that might have still stuck because even in my books I write, I have no compunction about writing in incomplete sentences and I start more sentences with the word »and« then anybody, anywhere. Because of the way I talk , I break up sentences into separate parts. I might even write a sentence then put »but« as a separate sentence and then go on from that.
Most English teachers would say that was a disgraceful way to write but it forms a narrative then gets the message across.
In that sense, quality journalism doesn’t have to stick to the grammar rules?
No. It has to stick to the facts and that’s when the quality comes in.”