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13/04/2006 - par Mark Tungate

Last week a famous American luggage company asked me to write their ­annual report. I hesitated for a moment because, to be honest, annual reports aren't really my thing. I often receive them, but I rarely manage to read them - they're so dry that if you rubbed two of them together, you could start a fire. Anyway, the luggage people assured me they wanted something lively and entertaining, which was why they were hiring me. So I got cracking, and spent the entire weekend transforming a bunch of background documents into novelistic prose. Since I'd forced myself to write the thing, I wanted to tell a story.

Yesterday I got the call I had been dreading : « Your text is fine, but we feel it's a little... informal. You see, it is aimed at financial people. » I realised that - but hadn't they wanted something fun ? « Yes, but this is... well, it's TOO fun. » I gave up and said I would send an invoice for my first draft.

Why are we so afraid to break media conventions ? A news story has to be written this way, an annual report that way. Let's be inventive. Readers are attracted to the Internet because that is where the rules are broken. And not all annual reports have to be dull. I remember the first line of the Reporters Without Borders annual report from a couple of years ago. It read : « Neo-Nazi activists and criminal gangs continued to harass investigative journalists - though not as much as the previous year. » It was pretty hard to put down.

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