Daily Telegraph, December 12, 2015

(85 words)

Without seeing the reporter’s copy it is impossible to know what, if anything, the sub has done with this story. However the result is an impenetrable jumble.

By referring back to the original press release on the internet, I can see that it, as well as the reporter and sub, has fallen into the trap of suggesting that birds are somehow in control of the colour of their feathers and can change them at will. In fact the scientists are simply saying that the colour we see in feathers is due to the structure of them, not an applied pigment of the type we use in dyes and paint.

This is how I would tackle this story:

Scientists have discovered why birds do not go grey as they age. The answer could prevent clothes fading with repeated washing.

Feathers are made of a spongy keratin material, similar to human hair. A team at Sheffield University found that the precise size and density of holes in the material determines the colour reflected from the surface. They believe this permanent ‘nanostructure’ could replace the use of pigments in dyes and paints, which eventually fade.

The findings are published in Nature Scientific Reports. (85 words)

The heading with its unnecessary split infinitive really is terrible. My effort would be:

How birds could help
with the weekly wash

It is worth saying that although there is an old subs’ adage that any story can be told in 25 words, it is not true, and a story of this complexity should not have been given such a short space. Tell it properly or don’t tell it at all.



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