Associated Press will shorten the news

Associated Press will shorten the news May 16, 2014

We’ve blogged about the findings that the internet has diminished people’s ability to read long, complex texts.  Now the leading practitioner of print journalism is giving in to the trend.  The Associated Press wire service has ordered its reporters to keep their stories no longer than 500 words.

Used to, wire stories–when they were printed over teletype–came on long rolls of paper.  They were written with an ingenious structure:  The first sentence (the “lede”) summed up the story, then the details were given in order of decreasing importance.  That way, editors could cut the story at virtually any sentence, depending on how much space on the page they had to fill.

We few remaining readers of newspapers do so because we like the news presented at greater length and in more depth than what is common online.  I’m afraid that if print journalism decides to just emulate news on the internet, it will only hasten its demise.

From New Associated Press guidelines: Keep it brief – The Washington Post:

The world’s largest independent news organization, the Associated Press, for one, has told its journalists to cut the fat — and keep their stories between 300 and 500 words. . . .

That’s 500 words, max, on just about every one of the 2,000 or so stories AP journalists report each day, from ballgames to bomb blasts to the latest political skulduggery.

Exceptions: AP has told its reporters that the top one or two stories in each state may run between 500 and 700 words, and the top global stories of the day may be a practically Faulknerian 700-plus words. Reporters in AP’s newly expanded investigative unit will be permitted to bust the limits.

Why? The news service says many of its members — 15,000 or so newspapers, Web sites, and radio and TV stations around the world — lack the staff to trim stories to fit their shrinking news holes. What’s more, AP says, readers can get turned off by longer stories, especially on mobile devices, an increasingly popular way for people to get the day’s news.


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