When I started out as a cub reporter on a regional paper, running around my patch chasing down stories, I would never have guessed that somewhere down the line I’d be writing light-hearted listicles for a website.
But I like writing them and it frustrates me when it is implied that writing them isn’t a skill in itself.
If you’ve read a bad one you know it hasn’t worked so it’s clear at least some creativity is needed to make them fly.
The brilliant thing about how news has changed over the years is that we now get so close to our readers.
Some yearn for the ‘good old days’ of the printing press, the newspaper librarian and the comfortable distance between reporter and reader, when readers were kept safely at bay in the holding pen of the letters page.
But now readers can let us know their thoughts under every article, they can tweet us, email us and the rest.
I think this is brilliant. Occasionally it’s scary but no more so than the time on my first paper I got an enraged phone call from a man claiming I’d misreported a council meeting item about squirrels, or one from a mentally distressed lady convinced all the maps had been changed to exclude Brighton.
The fact we can find out so soon what readers like and don’t like (and it’s not just the comments, it’s UVs and shares on social media of course), is fantastic.
And one of the things a lot of people like is listicles.
One thing that makes me smile is friends who are rude about listicles then share a listicle on Facebook half an hour later.
Readers have never been so powerful. Whether they want more stories on war crimes or houses that look like Hitler it’s up to them – if they click more, read more and share more we write more on that subject.
Equally, if you’re getting sick of stories about cats (as if) – all you need to do is stop reading and sharing them.
Going back to the listicles, one thing all real journalists value most (other than booze) is the truth.
Although for these light-hearted pieces we’re not uncovering some government scandal we are, if we’re doing them correctly, writing about smaller, more personal truths.
And having a laugh, of course (although for every funny piece you write at least one reader won’t get the joke).
So anyway, here’s my latest listicle, called 21 reasons November is the best month of the year.
It’s probably not as good as the blow job one but there you are.
This time it was nice to write about reasons to be cheerful even though I am massively biased as it’s my birthday month.