‘Man finds decades-old message inside bottle’

Let’s be honest: This is an intriguing human interest story. But once you buy in, all you get is a terribly written, horribly unsatisfying narrative arc. The reader is left with a barrel of questions that should have been answered along the way, plain and simple: Who is David? What did he actually write in the letter? (We can see the news station has a photo! Why leave this out of the story?) What did his wife think about all this? And what about Jeremy? What drives him?

That’s just for starters. What you have here is garbage, and a good editor would have laughed this first draft out of the office. “You don’t have it, kid!” (Never mind that what we have here is a Carriere, Miss., dateline running on a Cleveland news site. Never mind that the body copy on TV news stories is simply the stilted transcript of the video package.) I understand that the whole point of TV news is to get in and get out with a tidy, low-stakes family yarn that you can sandwich between violent crime and the weather, but you just can’t ship bullshit like this—at a time when local journalism could use all the joy and care and craftsmanship it can get!

Note to misguided youth considering a career in journalism: When you come across an antique-collecting retiree who’s found a mysterious, decades-old message in a bottle, share the message with your audience. For god’s sake, have fun with it!


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