Q & A with Dr. Ink

Dear Readers:

Dr. Ink is a life-long baseball fan and a news junkie, but he has not understood the issues central to the labor negotiations between the greedy players and the monomaniacal owners.

Until now, thanks to Murray Chass of The New York Times, and thanks to an old war horse of a news form, a genre so reliable it is too often overlooked. Call it Q & A, and credit Plato, with help from Socrates, for inventing it.

Here's the first question and answer from Chass's Aug. 13 story:

Q. Wasn't the union expected to set a strike date yesterday?

A. Yes, but the union decided it could afford to give negotiations a few more days to reach a deal. Chass proceeds to explain the issues, offering 19 questions, none more than a sentence, with each answer no longer than a paragraph.

Perhaps Dr. Ink should give it a try.

Q. Why do you like the Q & A format?

A. There's something oddly erotic about the letter Q. Beyond that, it allows the writer to anticipate the readers' most important questions.

Q. What kinds of stories work best in this form?

A. Q & A has many applications, from oral histories to celebrity interviews. On the civic side, it works for any story that requires careful explanation, from controversial accounting practices, to the scandal in the Catholic Church, to the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.

Q. Why do you think this form works?

A. It takes complexity and transforms it into an imagined conversation. It also presents lots of text in a visually appealing style, with lots of breaks and white space.

Q. Who makes the best Pizza in America?

A. Umberto's on Long Island.


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