Helvetica: Reviewed


Helvetica used in the printing press — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Helvetica. The font this is written in and a font widely used across many platforms has it’s own film. Prior to the film, students were warned how oddly excited these people would be about the font…and they were not disappointed.


Theatrical Poster for Helvetica — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Much of the film was spent talking to typographers and artists who use fonts of many different styles on a regular basis, instead of talking about the general idea of design, much of their discussions took place about Helvetica. According to these font experts, if it wasn’t for the primary usage of Helvetica in just about every aspect of their careers, they seem to claim that they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are today. The simplicity, yet bold taste of the font defines many of their pieces. One could say that in the eyes of the artists and designers, Helvetica is much like the pine or the pencil. Without the existence of either, their craft would not be where it is today.


Designer talking about his use of the font — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Throughout the film, Helvetica is shown in many different designs, billboards, and general scales that called for its usage. They showed many examples in major cities, showcasing the very simple yet almost elegant (it is Helvetica) style of the font on a solid background. A major corporate example in the film was American Apparel’s use of Helvetica. It is their primary font for their very simplistic brand of (overpriced) clothing.

The film did progress to a point where they talked a lot about the history of Helvetica and about how many fonts were developed. Many were hand drawn and hand cut for printing presses in the earlier ages of printing. Helvetica, in particular, was designed by a Swiss designer at the Haas Foundry in Munchenstein, Switzerland and was considered to be the emblem of the machine age in 1957.

In all, one would probably questions why they would watch a film all about one specific type design. Rotten Tomatoes, a film critique site with a major say in what is a good film and what is “rotten” gave the documentary an 89%.  The film, while interesting, is definitely something for a rainy afternoon when you have maybe expired all other options.


The Key to Strong Headlines

David Ogilvy, whose quote is the lead in for quicksprout.com’s piece on writing attention grabbing headlines, stated that a majority of people who read the headline will not read the actual story below it. The body copy, in most cases, become rather irrelevant. This lead to another David Ogilvy quote:

“It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money…”  StrongHeadline

QuickSprout also goes on to say that headlines are so important that a single word can change the amount of people actually read a story. They tested this with email subject lines, even a one word change in that, increased the click-through rate by 46%. The primary purpose of the headline is the get the first sentence read. This is important to the time and money you have spent on the project or even the investment in the story. A writer or journalist wants to write something that is going to draw the consumer in and compels them to read the first sentence.

According to QuickSprout, there are ‘four u’s’ to remember when it comes to writing headlines. These are:


Examples of Today’s Headlines — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

1. Your headline should be unique.

2. Your headline should be ultra specific.

3. Your headline should convey a sense of urgency.

4. Your headline should be useful.

Most successful headlines contain one or two of the u’s and rarely will contain all of them.

According to contently.com, writers should be using something that call the 50/50 rule. This means that a writer should be spending 50% of their time on persuasive content as well as 50% on their headline. They also include several different types of headlines, including ‘how’ headlines, ‘why’ headlines, and even list headlines. Contently also encourages writers to pay attention to the psychology of behind words, and what will essentially guarantee attention. They also link their headline importance post to several other guides on how to write intricate and possibly award winning headlines.


Thinking about your headline — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Headlines which are common in papers and on blogs were also featured in an article in The Guardian, a newspaper with roots in the United Kingdom but an online presence like no other. The story written by David Marsh, states that the type of headline and even the creation of a heal dine has changed so much due to the over saturation of media to the public. Marsh prefers headlines that have a bit of a play on words or even are crazy enough that the read must read into the article to find the meaning. While Marsh has a point, one could also see how this could turn a reader off as well. There is a time and a place for the puzzle headlines, and documenting a major local fire with one is definitely not the place.

Kansas University’s website on writing strong headlines covers many of the same the tips and tricks the other websites disclosed. But they also state that headline should not go against AP style with the exception of numbers. Headline with numbers in them should be written in the traditional arabic style, and not word form.

The site, CopyBlogger, which is actually mentioned on the QuickSprout website for a great example of awesome headlines, states in their own article on the topic that headlines should ultimately come first. The 8 of 10 people reading the headline will thank you later. This can heavily encourage the reader to continue down the page and into the story. They state that statistically, 2 out of 10 people ever make it to the first sentence.


Edit for Factuality and Grammar


Stephan Glass — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

While our media today has an obvious opinion slant, most of the information that is reported is factual. Most news has statistics, events, and a corresponding reaction that is hard to fudge in any way. Editors are responsible for fact-checking, or checking for the truth and accuracy of the information presented in their writer’s piece. Failing to do so, or publishing, reporting, or posting of false information as true can ruin the reputation and credibility of the publisher. A prime example of this would be the actions and stories of Stephan Glass at the New Republic. Once a very credible political magazine now struggles it’s way back to the ranks of the political news elite because of Glass’ incredibly realistic yet fabricated tales of what went on behind the scenes during political conferences and other high profile events.


Facts should always be true — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

According to a blog contributed by several high profile editors, editing for grammar is just as important as editing for facts. The author of the post, a fiction editor, Beth Hill states that while grammar can tie a writer in knots, it is the framework of a story and keeps it from being words just slopped together. She also states that it is important for a writer to be at least proficient in using grammar and punctation in order for his or her pieces to makes sense and be clear to a public. Hill goes on to note that once should treat grammar like a craftsman treats his tools, keeping them in mint and updated condition.

The American Press Institute states that fact-checking is the very root in which journalism is based. In their article, they talk to Angie Drobnic Holan from PolitiFact, the home of the Truth-O-Meter. This meter, developed in 2007 was pushed through their organization because there was overwhelming belief that there was not enough fact checking in journalism to begin with. In order to cover the 2008 election in a new way, the Truth-O-Meter was born.


The Truth-O-Meter — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

The Truth-O-Meter takes soundbites or quotes from politicians, leaders, and even talking heads for certain organizations and checks the overall accuracy and relevancy of the statement and is posted online. The ratings consist of true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false, and the damning “pants of fire” ratings for a statement that is completely bogus. The fact checkers brought the 2008 election into a whole new light with their meter, enlightening to the public to the talking game and rumor mill that politics could really be.

trust.org, the webpage that is sponsored by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, posted an actable as well about the importance of fact-checking in journalism. The author, David Brewer notes that journalism, as he defines it, is about collecting facts, interrupting their importance, and sharing that information with an audience. He also notes that any fact collected should be put against the “two reliable source” test. This is defined as the idea that the fact you have collected, maybe from an interview or from a press conference must be backed up against another source with the same information. This means notes, the wire, a direct quote from the interviewee, anything that proves your fact as true and accurate. The only time in which this rule can be broken, is for breaking news that needs to be published or announced in time that will not allow for a through fact check. For the story following the announcement of the breaking news, all facts and information must be verified.


Everyday is Grammar Day — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

There are many different ways to fact check and many articles on the possible controversy of fact-checking and what crossesoutlets the line between real and entertainment. All and all, one can note that fact-checking has now become just as important as editing for clarity, conciseness, and grammatical correctness. Grammar has been taught to many of us all our lives, in every institution we step foot in. Fact-checking could almost be considered an art or a science today with the many  and resources that are available for information. Every writer must remember the consequences of fabricating information, because the credibility of your publisher is not worth the price of a good story. Just ask Stephan Glass.


Nothing but Trouble: Libel and Slander

Two terms that are often confused in any form of communication are libel

Libel and Slander can be related to rumor mills --- Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Libel and Slander can be related to rumor mills — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

and slander. These two forms of defamation or the use of a false statement to harm the reputation of an individual, company, group, etc. They normally do not have any type of factual support and can distort an audiences view of the subject. The use of libel and slander can be see in a lot of today’s media, regardless of the outlet.


Example of Libel — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

What is Libel? Libel is written defamation. Libel is found more often in newspapers, periodicals, magazines, and any other form of written or print media including the internet. With the technological revolution in which the Internet has become the primary source of any kind of information, people can find that there are whole websites dedicated to the libel of a certain person, company, or group. This type of speech can be related to hate speech. Like any defamation, it has no factual basis and can often not be proven. An example of libel is many of the tabloids that claim to have celebrity information. Many of those tabloids include stories of divorces that are violent but are not actually taking place or affairs that could potentially ruin marriages or partnerships between musicians or actors.


Scandal is an ABC show centered around Libel and Slander in politics — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

What is Slander? Slander is spoken defamation. This takes place anywhere and with anyone on a regular basis. A high school rumor mill could contain slander. Slander is more often found in person to person communication rather than in the media. Many news fact-checkers keep slander from reaching a broadcast. With that said, there are still places where one could find slander, most of them are on radio states with a specific host, and are often only accessible through a subscription or in a specific frequency area. For example, two radio hosts that often contain slander in their broadcasts are Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. Both of these personalities have no problem tearing apart stars, politicians, and others that they do not agree with on the air. Often times, this is why they have many listeners as well. For many people with agree with the comments and opinions of the men.

Avoiding libel and slander can be difficult in topics that have very controversial opinions or reactions to begin with. Overall, it can be avoided by sticking to facts rather than opinions, as well as asking experts in the field rather than everyday people who just so happened to witness an incident. Many times the person who is subject to the defamatory comments can get the law involved if the comments have actually done harm to the reputation of them and it can be proven. Most times proving this can be hard to do. In today’s world, social media can make it very difficult to pinpoint defamatory comments and just negative opinions.



Shattered Glass: Reviewed


Movie Poster for Shattered Glass — Photo Courtesy of IMBD

Shattered Glass, a film about Stephen Glass, a writer who often fabricated his stories to get published, was an excellent film for any good writer or journalist to see before they pursue work in the field. Stephen learns throughout the film that there is a huge price to pay for false information or fabricating a story that is published later as true. His actions ruined the reputation of the New Republic, which was once the only political magazine on Air Force One.


Theatrical Stephan pitching a story — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Stephen Glass in the film, is young and just starting out really as a writer at the New Republic. His stories and reputation precede him in meetings when he tells his story to the group, eliciting smiles and laughs, or even emotional responses from colleagues before claiming it wasn’t good enough or he wasn’t going to finish writing about it. His self criticism was met with encouragement to continue. Stephen would write the story, submit it for publishing, and often would make the New Republic’s next publication without any kind of a problem. Fact checkers relied on his notes and business cards, editors believed that Stephen meant well, and was often times, just a forgetful, scatter brained young kid. This lead to several fabricated stories to be published right under the nose of several editors regardless of questions from fact-checkers and outside sources. They defended their star writer, until he was discovered by a group from Forbes.


A cover of the New Republic — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

The Forbes group targeted Stephen’s story about a tech conference of teenage hackers. They could not get ahold of the technology giant that supposedly hired the teen, let alone get whole of the teen hacker himself. Stephen had his brother stand in on phone calls and record voice mail greetings in order to hide the fact that they were not real. Stephen even went as far to create a website on the early internet for the technology giant. The Forbes writers called with new questions every day, pressuring and pressuring until Stephen finally broke. The story was fake. The conference never happened. Then the floodgates finally opened at the New Republic, all of Stephen Glass’ stories were fake.


Current Photo of Stephan Glass — Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Stephen’s work could have made great short stories or even a novel with the amount of effort he went through on a weekly basis to keep himself in the press. Glass is prohibited from taking the bar exam because his skilled lying is frowned upon in the law community. Today, he does many speaking engagements on writing and doesn’t quite show remorse for his actions at the New Republic. Glass is the prime example of a perfectly good talent that was not channeled in the right way. I firmly believe if someone would have taught Stephen or even nurtured Stephen in the art of fictional, entertainment reading, he very well could have been the next Mark Twain.