How much religion news can fit in 300-500 words?

Given your short attention span, I’ll make this brief.

And I’ll get right to the point: For once, The Associated Press is making news instead of reporting it.

Here’s the story as reported by The Washington Post:

Citing a “sea of bloated mid-level copy,” Associated Press Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano last week instructed fellow editors at the wire service to limit most “daily, bylined digest stories” to a length of between 300 and 500 words. Top stories from each state, Carovillano directed, should hit the 500 to 700-word range, and the “top global stories” may exceed 700 words but must still be “tightly written and edited.”

Carovillano’s memo itself references the driving force behind the limits: “Our members do not have the resources to trim the excess to fit shrinking news holes,” notes the editor.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for AP, notes that a “common concern” among AP members and subscribers is that stories are too long. In recent months, says Colford, the wire service has been trimming stories in Europe and the outcome has been “successful.”

Noting that the memo encouraged AP reporters to “consider using alternative story forms either to break out details from longer stories, or in lieu of a traditional text story,” a Poynter Institute blogger quipped:

So is AP getting into the listicle business?

Here at GetReligion, we often critique stories that seem incomplete and lacking in basic context and details. Often, those stories run 800 to 1,200 words. But what happens when a journalist has only 300 to 500 words to tell a complicated religion story? Is that even possible?

Can a news organization report fairly and fully on, say, a same-sex marriage lawsuit or a doctrinal debate or a faith affiliation survey in that amount of space? Can it even pretend to?

Those are my questions, but I just hit 303 words. So I better stop typing.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • deann47

    What a fantastic opportunity to focus on soapbox advocacy, the preferred narrative, etc etc. After all, error has no right hence pointless to cover any dissenting viewpoint. The great unwashed know nothing; we know everything. Now there’s literally no place for wasting time on what doesn’t support the editorial. Carry on.

  • boinkie

    Yes you can write pithy and complete stories, but it takes lots of rewrites, or a good editor.

    • PalaceGuard

      Perhaps a source of menial jobs for starving English majors?

  • PalaceGuard

    No worse than trying to shoehorn a 30-page APA-formatted term paper into a pithy little (required) abstract. Maybe there needs to be an online depository, rather like a media Dropbox, that news abstracts could reference/link? In any case, the media, in all their manifestations, are increasingly like a steak house in which only the salad bar is open.

  • Darren Blair

    I get 600 for my movie reviews and opinion columns.

    Oy.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X