Writing for and from the heart (and car repairs)
The life of any journalist is not a simple one. The pressure generate a decent living, to write publishable prose on time and to the word count required and in a style appropriate for the magazine is not a task any of us would take on lightly. It's one thing reading a novel on holiday, quite another writing one, and yet another to write with one eye on the clock.
Originally Posted by Pharos
Yes, there has been a huge shift in presentational style between the audio magazines of the 1970s (I have many of them) and those today. I recently skimmed a current (July 2012) consumer electronics magazine and I read a review something like this ....
Now that's very sensual writing - vaguely erotic - and it appeals to us on a very deep emotional level. It bypasses our rational, logical brain and goes straight to the core where it creates strong motivational associations. Nothing wrong with that of course. The issue is that it is a very broad, crude and imprecise way to evaluate a technical product, and assumes that we all respond to base nature in a similar way, which may well be true! Logically then, a manufacturer assessing the positive media attention the design, packaging and presentation of his product receives would be encouraged to divert more money into those external touch-feely features, and if necessary pare down the engineering core to the bone, keeping the overall cost the same. Since manufacturers don't meet their end consumers (this HUG is an exception) they assume, rightly or wrongly, that journalists speak for the public at large. That's surely reasonable, since by implication if they didn't, the (printed) magazines would fail through lack of sales. And that is not what we see - generally speaking the mainstream "Which?" type magazines are doing well. So those journalists we read must be writing in a style that the public will pay for.
... Opening the carton sent a shiver of sensuous delight down my spine to my trembling fingers. I could hardly restrain my excitement as I unpeeled the clinging cotton inner wrapping revealing the naked beauty of the satin-finished body. I had to take catch my breath as I stroked the controls, the barely raised buttons inviting a deep investigation of the multi-faceted personality of the inner workings... when I nuzzled part A up against part B the sheer magic of this design flowed ...
My car is serviced by a little local garage run by a very gifted mechanic. The premises are not impressive, but he is. Sometimes if I'm passing I call in for a chat just to see what his latest challenge is. I usually find him under a car and have to insist that he just carries on, not hauls himself out to greet me. He seems to specialise in one particular central-European made small hatchback, now in its fifth or sixth generation. Its TV advertising has evolved to lifestyle orientation compared with its utilitarian beginnings. He has serviced and repaired every generation of the car during its 20+ year product life span. His opinion of the build quality of the later generations compared with the earlier ones is scathing and has pointed out parts that used to be metal and are now nylon, parts that fail more frequently due presumably to cost-down initiatives, and layer upon layer of added complexity - especially electrical - which are doomed to fail.
Wherever you look you see weight reduction, material substitution, reduced durability, cosmetic enhancements and needless or rarely used features added to consumer products. Is it any wonder that the media merely reflect changes in consumer purchasing behaviour? Or do they lead it?
Want to try your hand at being a journalist for an hour to see just how difficult it is to be a critic? Try writing no less than 300 words about your TV here ..... all submissions will be published. I've just mulled this over and realised that a) I can't/mustn't disassemble the TV to see what's inside b) I wouldn't be able to recognise any of the chip function blocks even if I did c) I could never design a modern TV so I have no basic skills to be able to critique someone else's design d) I would have to write entirely about the externals. And that is precisely what we see in contemporary reviews: a total focus on the outside not the inside.
Go ahead - try it!
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK