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You are cordially invited to the Writer's Workshop to discuss narrative writing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by KVV, Feb 3, 2007.

  1. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: You are cordially invited to the Writer's Workshop to discuss narrative writ

    To extend FotF's remarks about the persistent human appetite for well-told stories, however long -

    Too often the argument gets made that newspapers must shorten, tighten, trim their stories. This because the common wisdom (and the latest focus group) says that young people don't/won't read long. They have no time. They have ADHD. They're awash in the data stream, with a hundred other options from twenty competing delivery systems. Keep those stories short, short, short. Musn't tax that diminishing attention span.

    How then do we explain Bill Simmons and his popularity over the last several years? Love him or hate him, some of those bottomless .com columns are 5,000 words long.

    Just a point for discussion.
  2. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I addressed both of these points in previous posts.

    And, here is another problem managers have. They use someone like Bill Simmons as an example. Using him in any discussion as a flashpoint will lead you to a false conclusion.
    Bill Simmons and his popularity is not the mean, but the exception -- hence his 200k+ salary. There are only a half-dozen to a dozen columnists in the country making this salary. What are the 900-or-so other papers to do?

    I tried to keep this discussion as "big picture" as possible. Using generalities on purpose. Because, of course, in our business there are exceptions. From writers to agate clerks to stories, there are exceptions. We deal with them everyday. We deal in exceptions.

    I think there is leeway in takeouts, in-depth profiles and investigative journalism. I think there should be parameters on the everyday gamer, column, feature and notebook.
  3. Claws for Concern

    Claws for Concern Active Member

    The Orange County Register does a narrative piece of journalism on A1 every day. It is a slice of life piece on an ordinary person with an interesting hook. The stories are well-written, smartly edited and include two photos. It's OCR's version of Column One in the L.A. Times.
  4. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Have you seen those LA Times Column Ones lately?
    They are under 60 inches. Not long ago, those suckers would double, and triple-jump.
  5. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    Perhaps not coincidentally, the LA Times isn't regarded the way it once was.
  6. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Wow. What tremendous insight.
    Let me get this straight. You concluded, because of the shorter Column Ones, they're not "regarded the way [they] once [were]."
    Hmmmmm. Let ME think before I type...
    Yep. That's the reason. You're right.
  7. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    Another Internet gangster.

    Let's star there: The LA Times does not have the reputation it should, and its reputation has dropped off in the past while. Do you agree or disagree?

    Now, I never said that was exclusively because Column One has been slashed. But I would happily argue that those cuts have contributed to the impression, both inside the newsroom and among readers, that the Times isn't the paper it once was. Those stories -- and, in turn, the paper as a whole -- were better, journalistically speaking, when they were more indepth. And, yes, when they were longer... The same way USA Today isn't held in the same class as the New York Times -- because not every story can be told in briefs or with bar graphs.

    In response, feel free to dazzle me with more blue font.
  8. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Wrapper,

    I think the point is well-made by others. Magazines aren't necessarily the best medium for series journalism--though I'll always have a spot near and dear for the SI black athlete series in days of yore (the parts about Texas Western notwithstanding). You get long-form journalism all in one dose in the top end.

    NYT seems to do pretty well by various series they put above the fold on page 1. I know on the Canadian side, some rags here do the same. You might envision a world of 400-word features and USA Today six-graph gamers. I see a place for everything. I'm sure you know better.

    YHS, etc
  9. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Wow. You did it again. You went from the New York Times to USA Today. There's nothing in between.

    Just like:
    And, since you're on the subject. You should familiarize yourself with the Bill Keller and Len Downie (not to mention Dean Baquet and Jim O'Shea) memos directing staff for tighter written and edited stories.

    Again, I've addressed a lot of these subjects on this same thread.
  10. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Of course I do. I've answered this already:

    No. No. No. I didn't mean for this to be Doomsday. It isn't. And, I agree with you. We need smart stories. Stories they can't get five minutes after they happen. You're right, we lose that battle.
    And, narrative, as a form, is okay. You can do a narrative in 40-50 inches, with photographs and graphics. I just don't see that average reader getting through a 5-part narrative. And, all the information available to me is consistent with that.
    That's my point. There has to be something between the 8 inches and the 5-part prep narrative.

  11. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    "In between" is what the LA Times is doing now, and it's not working.

    Self-quoting makes you look like you spend a lot of time sucking your own dick, by the way.
  12. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Oh Wise Wrapper,

    Your pt, apparently, is not that there's a place for something between eight-inches and five-parts. Your argument is, it seems, that there's no place for five parts, that serial journalism is as dead as door nails. I say there is a place for five parts. Or 15 parts. Or whatever the subject justifies. Of course there will be some things stretched to rupture. But not all. Story compression is a matter of cost more than anything--paper costs. I'm not convinced that a six-graph USA Today gamer serves anybody, let alone everybody. And to some extent some stories and issues are un- or under-reported as a a results. When newspapers and mags shift to screens, real estate is unlimited. The notion that internet readers have shorter attention spans doesn't necessarily wash--if you have the science on that please provide the publishing info. The fact is, internet advertisers aren't just interested in the number of hits or page views an outfit scores--they also want to know how long readers/viewers stay on screen. Fact is, serial journalism on the net can benefit from audio/video add-ons and, like I mentioned, the ability of readers to miss an installment and catch up.

    Obviously I haven't thought any of this through as deeply as you. Please show me the error of my ways. I'm prepared to be shamed and amazed.

    YHS, etc
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