CONSUMED BY MEDIA

If only Internet stories DID always get right to the point

Posted in digital media, journalism trends by Diane on January 5, 2010

The always provocative Michael Kinsley makes many good points about overcontextualized newspaper stories in the Atlantic but gives online stories a pass on their own failings.

Yes, many newspaper stories are too long and bloated with unnecessary quotes and qualifications, as he argues in the essay, much tweeted about today by fellow journos. But his claim that readers are abandoning newspapers for the Internet because online “news articles get to the point”? Dubious.

First, since when do online news articles get to the point? And who’s producing these online news articles? Kinsley never says: He deconstructs a few articles from the New York Times and  the Washington Post, but never cites examples that meet his brevity standards.

There’s a downside to online writing: Without a news hole to worry about, editors aren’t necessarily compelled to trim copy. And with the ever quickening news cycle, they don’t always have time to shape stories before they’re published even if they wanted to.

So what we get online is a lot of flabby prose and half-digested analysis. In an ideal world writers and/or editors would revisit dashed off stories and polish them. But how often is that done? There’s always more news to process and report.

Another problem with online news articles? Certain sites tease stories about news developments but do not, in fact, reveal what they are, until after the reader has clicked through to another page. Want to know whether the ground hog saw his shadow or your favorite team won? That’ll be another click. So much for getting to the point.

Online sites do have advantages, but they are not immune to the same quality control issues as their traditional counterparts.

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