Friday, September 12, 2003

Copy Massage starts what I'm sure will be a lengthy discussion: How much background information is too much for readers?
Part of the balancing act of editing is estimating the aptitude of your audience. We can’t assume they will pick their way through a thorny patch of grammar. But we shouldn’t barrage them with bland and obvious “information” either. (Governor Jeb Bush of Florida is President Bush's brother? Really?)
When I first started working in newspapers, we gave a lot of attention to keeping stories short. "Not everything on 1A needs to be 25 inches long." "Try to hold it to the cover." "Use that jump space for more news!"

Now those are ideas of the past — even though we've lost pages of news hole every day. When a third of a story is background information that you'll include in four or five stories a week, are you really helping readers? That's space for three stories they won't hear about in your paper.

And when you don't get the news you want from your newspaper, you'll get it somewhere else.

We need to fill more of the paper with news and less with background. It will give readers more impetus to read the paper every day and give us more space for news to keep them reading.


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