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Word limits

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by B.P. Bonpensiero, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. B.P. Bonpensiero

    B.P. Bonpensiero New Member

    My SE recently slapped a 425-word limit on the section for all stories and columns. Shrinking newshole is to blame, he said. We've been nudged to write shorter in the past, but this is the first time a hard cap has been introduced. It can be broken, but only with advance approval and if he and the ASE believe the piece merits the extra space. Just wondered if anyone else has run into this.
     
  2. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Only inasmuch as we, as editors, aren't going to give 28" to a prep gamer. Hard caps are usually too rigid. You have to be able to think on the move.
     
  3. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Hard rules like that are unnecessary. If a story deserves 20", it shouldn't get 15. For that matter, it shouldn't get 30. Good writers and editors know there should be some flexibility. And what made your editor settle on 425 words, which is rather short?
     
  4. B.P. Bonpensiero

    B.P. Bonpensiero New Member

    I'm not sure where 425 words came from. By our measure, it's about 14 column inches, which also seems arbitrary. This applies to stories as well as columns, and on our mid-sized daily we run a staff-generated column seven days a week. I've been in this business a while -- during which time I have worked my way up to a pro beat and four columns a week -- so I understand the challenges of shrinking news hole. But this just strikes me as a convenient way to avoid looking at the quality of stories on a case-by-case basis.
     
  5. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    If I'm looking for a column on the feature wire, 14-inch columns seldom catch my eye. I generally like a little more meat on the bone than that.
     
  6. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Active Member

    BASW submissions are supposed to be "column length" or longer. I'm guessing Glenn Stout never heard of a 425-word column either.
     
  7. B.P. Bonpensiero

    B.P. Bonpensiero New Member

    Agreed. I just filed my first column under the 425-word limit, and by the time I was finished cutting that sucker down to size it looked like a Cliff's Note.
     
  8. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    14 inches is more than enough for a gamer. Way too short for a column, but more than enough space for a gamer.
     
  9. B.P. Bonpensiero

    B.P. Bonpensiero New Member

    Absolutely. When I file from an NFL game, my gamer is rarely longer than 450 words. But the column, I think, needs time to develop -- a beginning, middle and end -- and it's going to be real tough to do that in 425 words.
     
  10. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    At our shop, it's about 33.5 words to an inch, and usually one in four gamers goes beyond 15 inches. I sometimes write longer is needed, I'll give the desk a call, but it is rarely needed.
    Still don't agree with a "hard count" though. Seems a bit excessive -- especially for a column.
     
  11. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Active Member

    425 words is not 14 inches at our place.
     
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    sc, sometimes I believe that's right. Sometimes, I believe that idea is overplayed.

    Is a 14" gamer nice and tight? Yes. Do I want my Eagles-Giants gamer from Sunday to be 14"? No. I want more detail than that.
     
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