Are you an aspiring journalist? Have absolutely no interesting facts to write about? A stalwart alternative is to report on people asking questions in what I like to call the speculative bullshit story. It’s time to take a master class from veteran Daily Telegraph reporter Richard Noone, who on February 18 had a story with the following headline published under the so-called ‘News’ section:
“Spooky amateur photo raises new questions about life after death.” The story is about a woman who took a photograph and the fact that she thinks there might be a ghost in it. Nothing noteworthy at all, but Noone, master journalist that he is, managed to whip out four hundred words on the topic.
A simple way to introduce speculative bullshit into your stories is to take a reasonable, boring explanation and an unreasonable, sensationalist explanation, put an “or” in between them, slap on a question mark and BAM, you’re done. Noone sticks to this tried and true formula with the first line of the report: “An innocent reflection or a window to a poltergeist?” It’s highly likely to be the former, but there is the technical possibility it could be the latter and that’s where the precious speculation lies.
If you want to write your own speculative bullshit story, remember to use a headline of the form “Richard Noone: reporter or a jar of marmalade?” Lead the story with a sentence like “There is speculation that Daily Telegraph reporter, Richard Noone is actually a container of spreadable condiment” and finally find and quote some punter who thinks it might be true. Works every time.