Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Newspaper Articles Are Too Long

"One reason seekers of news are abandoning print newspapers for the Internet has nothing directly to do with technology. It’s that newspaper articles are too long. On the Internet, news articles get to the point. Newspaper writing, by contrast, is encrusted with conventions that don’t add to your understanding of the news. Newspaper writers are not to blame. These conventions are traditional, even mandatory.

The software industry has a concept known as “legacy code,” meaning old stuff that is left in software programs, even after they are revised and updated, so that they will still work with older operating systems. The equivalent exists in newspaper stories, which are written to accommodate readers who have just emerged from a coma or a coal mine. Who needs to be told that reforming health care (three words) involves “a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system” (nine words)? Who needs to be reminded that Hillary Clinton tried this in her husband’s administration without success? Anybody who doesn’t know these things already is unlikely to care. (Is, in fact, unlikely to be reading the article.)"

~Michael Kinsley writing in The Atlantic, "
Cut This Story."

5 Comments:

At 2/10/2010 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he really gets to the heart of it here:

To admit that inputs affect outputs, whether in education, in the economy or in other areas, would be to undermine the vision and agenda of the left, and deprive those who believe in that vision of a moral melodrama, starring themselves as defenders of the oppressed and crusaders against the forces of evil.

... changing anyone's attitudes, priorities and behavior is a lot harder than taking a stance as defenders of the oppressed and crusaders against the forces of evil.

The Left is far more concerned with their self-image than they are with achieving results. Change that actually benefits people would mean abandoning their dream world and the mythology they've built around it. Instead, they cling to their fantasy and if the people reject their ideas, well, it's because they're racist and stupid.

It's a shame because many on the left are very creative and earnest and their energies could really make a difference.

 
At 2/10/2010 11:13 AM, Blogger James Fraasch said...

@anon

See the essay "The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed?"

Right on the mark.

James

 
At 2/10/2010 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If articles are short, how are the papers going to bury the fact that the indictment they are reporting on was handed down on a Democrat? You need at least 16 paragraphs to bury that information safely out of sight.

 
At 2/10/2010 11:05 PM, Blogger OA said...

Another attempt to explain why newspapers are losing ground. This article claims it is length, but really criticizes the content of the examples. He's on the right track with content, yet then mistakenly draws the conclusion that it's length.

Which really explains why much reporting these days sucks. A long format is perfect for presenting more background than short broadcast news stories. Yet newspapers mainly fail because they are not written by people who really ask serious questions anymore or do basic research that anyone with an internet connection can do.

Or people who could read their own article and then realize they were making a different argument than they thought originally and revise it.

 
At 2/11/2010 7:36 AM, Blogger juandos said...

An 1809 word rant from the excessivly wordy Kinsley is the height of irony...

 

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