How NOT to Write for TV Guides
TV guides are not the first place you would look for quality writing, but it will do in a pinch when you're bored out of your skull and wondering what's on.
While the TV guide is probably the smallest form of media advertising and journalism you can find, there are correct and incorrect ways of going about writing for them nonetheless. You may not think about it much, but the next time you pick one up and read one, you can automatically decide what you do and don't like about it aside from obvious errors and broad generalizations that tell you absolutely nothing about what's going to happen on a given night.
Style is important, and while these will vary, readers know which presentations work and which don't. Consistency is preferable, however, so each day's programming should be set up about the same. In the TV guide that comes in my local Sunday paper, Friday night programming has been cut entirely and replaced with a page listing the week's cooking shows. Every other night has a full page devoted to the recommended viewing, but for some reason Fridays have been recently designated as a desolate wasteland where nothing new or interesting is on. While that is not entirely untrue, Saturdays are no better in terms of network reruns, so why does one night get the axe dropped on it but not the other? Default episode summaries are really not all that difficult or time-consuming, especially if the reruns were rated high the first time around (provided the ratings stuck and it wasn't just a false positive from high expectations).
Featured columns depend on whatever qualifies as news relevant to that week's listings. It's at the writer's discretion what to write about depending on their personal preferences of what qualifies as quality programming and what shows seem to be significant based on the ratings information they have (as long as the coverage remains as equal as possible and without too much personal bias). Like with writing children's novels, everyone thinks they're good at this but few actually pay attention to what is going on or even care. It's one thing to get a listing wrong if the schedule was changed last-minute after it went to print; that's not the writer's fault. However, getting something so wrong that it's not even remotely related to what was supposed to have been written is. For example, the recent DVD release in my local paper's TV guide lists Cinderella 3D as a cowgirl version of the timeless tale. I don't think so; that's called something else (Once Upon a Time in the West). I've also noticed that the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is now called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, a choice which I will not dispute for personal reasons.
Puzzles are fun additions to this section of the periodical as long as they are not too easy, hard, or skewed toward a certain topic, but they are not necessary if they are at the expense of other listings. Not only do I mean the issue of the axed Friday night highlights but there are also missing hours when people are not assumed to be awake between the hours of midnight to nine A.M. I guess the night owls and early birds will just have to wing it (pun not intended). At any rate, just make sure that no matter what features you include, you can fit all of it on one page. Nothing is more annoying than an unfinished sentence at the end of a page that goes nowhere all because the picture dropped into the text was too big and no one caught the mistake in editing. It's really not that hard if you care about the quality of your work no matter how trivial the publication may be.
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