Today’s Thought: The news hole

Can you imagine tailoring your reporting to fit a space dictated by a medium and not by the actual story?

Unreal. Imagine a world in which you write as much or as little as needed. Have one photo to go with a story? Have 500? Want to link to other sites, documents, databases and content?

That’s the power of the Web. That’s the power of blogging your beat.

The beat blog killed the news hole.

  • The [printed] news hole – is
    [both literally and metaphysically] a squared geometric hole,
    not a rounded circular organic hole.

    It’s not easy trying to jam those circular pegs through those square holes.
    Believe me, it’s been tried. It just doesn’t work.

    “A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away.
    He must have time to modify his shape.”

    -Mark Twain

    Just Sayin’

  • With some exceptions. I know I’ve had a 2,000-word article, and at the last minute had to cut it down to 1,000. It ended up reading much, much better when chopped.

    If you have an unlimited amount of space, which you do on the web, you can end up rambling and rambling as your inner editor takes a vacation. BUT, if you know your audience, you know how long a reader will stay at your website and will cater to their attention spans, rather than the number of inches the ad people sold that day.

  • One good aspect that comes from writing to fit a space is that it forces the style to be tidy and to the point.

    When I first entered online journalism in grad school, reporters were all about putting everything online because they could. Why edit that 2,000 word story when all of it will fit online?

    Fortunately, we’ve gotten beyond that thinking. (I hope.)

    Study after study shows that online users do not read long stories online unless they’re really, really interested. And even then, most skim. This means, to me at least, that brevity is in fact more important online than in print.

  • Almost any story can be improved by editing (which doesn’t always mean cutting – it may mean adding something to strengthen the story).

    But there are stories that need 2000 words (or more) & it is harder to get them into a paper.

    Online, you can do a summary (or intro to a series) and then the people who are interested will read (or watch or both) the full story (and even bookmark it, blog about, comment, pass the link on to people they know).

    I know a writer who had an op-ed scheduled for a Sunday only to be told that it wasn’t running because they didn’t sell enough ads in the section. And it was pegged to a news story, so it couldn’t run the next week. Now that op-ed (and much more) could be put online.

  • pat

    One of the beauties of blogging is that your stories can be shorter. A lot of stories have fluff added to them (especially man on the street quotes) to increase length. But that’s what the comments section is for.

    I have also been in the position as a Web editor where print reporters want me to allow them to put longer versions on the Web site. The Web should be home to the best version of a story, not the longest. That’s sometimes hard to tell a reporter.

    What I believe beat blogging and the Web offers us is the ability to finally make stories the length they deserve to be. That often still requires good editing to determine.