The best tangent ever used by a journalist
Journalists always have a word count to hit. Sometimes that means cramming all their ideas into a tiny space, cutting out more than half the original content. But other times it means stretching the news, adding in little facts, unimportant quotes and generally filling up the space.
The latter scenario is excellent because it leaves room for people to make interesting decisions. Like sure I’m writing a story about a jail breakout in Sussex, but wouldn’t my readers also like to know that the dialling code there is 01273 and that England’s first casino was opened in Brighton?
Well, of course they want to know, because I just hit my word count.
But possibly the best tangent used in a news article ever, comes in a simple story about some spider eggs that were found in a bunch of bananas…
Now it turns out that these were eggs from the world’s most poisonous spider and that poor Abby Woodgate had to burn her hoover and her bin – anything that had touched the eggs – to get rid of the problem. I think Tesco replaced the burnt stuff though.
But the problem is I just told the story in about 50 words. And that’s bad because you probably would feel short changed at that. I could add in a few more details, a couple of relevant quotes. But don’t you think it’s still missing something?
Like a classic mention of erectile dysfunction maybe?
I was pretty surprised to see this little paragraph…
Although its [The Brazilian Wandering Spider’s) venom is highly toxic, it is being studied for use in erectile dysfunction treatments. The spider’s bite can cause an erection that sometimes lasts for up to four hours.
How did we get to talking about that?
That exctract actually makes up the 5th paragraph of this 20+ paragraph article. What about Abby Woodgate? What about the sack of spider eggs? Should we not prioritise those things?
Nope, you must hear about erectile dysfunction instead. Despite no spider bites or any actual men with erectile dysfunction involved in this story.
But what a great tangent! Mark Tran (the writer) has seen a fact about these spiders and he’s run with it. It’s not particularly relevant but it sure is interesting.
But then Mark stops talking about it and returns to his original story. And I’m left with unanswered questions…
Like how did anyone ever find that out? And why does this spider have magical powers? And has anyone with erectile dysfunction ever been bitten by one of these things and died a bitter-sweet death?
The start of one problem leads to the end of another… but then the new problem kills you.
I guess I’ll just have to leave my questions unanswered. But some of you extra-keen types can research more if you want.
The rest of you guys will just have to be content with a picture of this party-hard spider…
(Update: A little more research shows that the Daily Mail, not normally associated with high amounts of class, actually waited right until the end of their article before sharing the erection news… )