Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Picking Topics to Avoid Is the Fine Art of Comment

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Picking Topics to Avoid Is the Fine Art of Comment

Article excerpt

I GET asked how I decide what to write about each week.

aWhy did you waste time writing about that?a is another way of putting it.

I'm just an amateur at this newspaper-writing game. When I began the regular column thing I thought it might last for a month or two before all ideas dried up.

How often can you complain about the regional council before somebody tells you to stop being a whinger? How often can you praise the Empire Theatre before somebody tells you it's all a waste of taxpayers' money? How often can you write about UK things without being told to a[approximately]b***** off back there if you like it that much'?

I'm still going 245 weeks on.

There is the challenge of conjuring up exactly 625 words each week to fill in the blank space above the ads. I still open Wednesday's paper with some trepidation, to discover what heading has been stuck across my words. I sometimes wonder why a particular aspect of what I've written has been chosen.

That's the sub-editor's privilege and a poor reward for having to read the stuff in the first place.

I've picked up a few tricks since that first effort, in April 2008, when I predicted TRC election outcomes on the basis of minimal knowledge and very preliminary count statistics.

It is a fairly simple challenge to think of things to write about. It's more important, and more difficult, to decide what NOT to choose as a subject and then, for various reasons, steer well clear of it.

It's OK, just occasionally, to stick your neck out but you had better choose your targets fairly carefully.

I generally get off relatively unharmed by comments writers and SMSers bursting to be indignant or praising about this world or the next as soon as anything appears in print, online or in the letters page.

It is doubtful whether many who bother to read my stuff would be found among the Twitter, Facebook, social media set. …

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