I was asked by a University of Vermont professor what qualities we value most in new employees. “That’s
easy,” I said. “Good writing.” My fellow panelists at the UVM career day seminar this past Friday, shook their heads in agreement.
For whatever reason(s), good writing is as rare in PR as a NY Jets Super Bowl ring is in the NFL. And, for
whatever reason(s), writing (like the Jets) is getting worse with each passing year.
Which is why I read Gretchen Morgenson’s homage to the late Forbes Editor James Michaels, with such interest.
Michaels, according to Morgenson, was a real bear when it came to writing. He not only routinely rejected poor writing and editing by his reporters, he did so with a flourish. To wit:
– “This is a paid advertisement. Did you forget to say he walks on water?”
– “This is so full of holes, it’s like Swiss cheese.”
And, my favorite….
– “If I can’t stay awake editing this, how can a reader stay awake reading it?”
I never met Jim Michaels, but it seems he made quite an impression on the men and women who did. It also seems that Michaels and his breed of editor/writer who demanded clear, concise and compelling writing are an endangered species. Sad to say, the copy I see being written by most young people today would probably make the late Mr. Michaels turn over in his grave.