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Story forms, briefs and utility boxes

Story forms, briefs and utility boxes

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Story forms, briefs and utility boxes

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  1. Story forms, briefs and utility boxes How Readers really want information in a fast moving world Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman

  2. REALITY of the reader & newshole • The newshole: That space left over once we’ve sold all the ads. • Fewer overall inches on pages. • Busy readers glean • Alternative storyforms, utility (info) boxes and promos become even more important. • Briefs should be briefs, not short stories.

  3. Memo to Washington Post staff (oldie but a goodie) • “Our outstanding journalism comes in all sizes, including long pieces that deserve every inch. But for too long we’ve confused length with importance. Often the result has been stories that readers don’t want to finish and displays in the newspaper that don’t do our journalism justice. … A philosophy to live by: Every story must earn every inch.” -- Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Managing Editor Philip Bennett (Feb. 28, 2007)

  4. An experiment Try these with your stories

  5. First, briefs • “A brief should be what the term implies: perhaps not more than 15 to 20 lines in a one-column setting. Long briefs are not only unfair to the reader … , but they tend to make those vertical columns more dense with text.” -- Design expert Mario Garcia Why the change? Visually appealing

  6. Most of our briefs should be two to three inches long. If not, then try a compact story form.

  7. Types of briefs • Continuing routine coverage. • Minor event announcements. • Promotions and minor awards. • Items promoting inside content. • One-source or one-fact items. • Change of time or date of event. • Items lacking human element.

  8. Don’t confuse briefs with brights, reviews or other story forms.

  9. Then, leaner stories • Most stories in The Oklahoman’s editions will be 10 to 25 inches long with one or two secondary reading devices (utility, breakout boxes, info boxes – secondary reading devices). • This includes reviews and brights. • Note: News stories should always be written in second-day angles for The Oklahoman.

  10. Possible exceptions IMPORTANT NOTE: But even these need more scrutiny for readability, more advance communication between reporters and editors and editors and desks, and additional secondary reading devices. Most will be 10 to 25 inches, with secondary reading devices. Anything more than 25 inches will need additional scrutiny and advance communication. • Play stories. • Centerpieces. • Enterprise (Multiple sources and not coverage of an event). • Investigative. • Profile. • Columns.

  11. Story Forms Online • Inverted pyramid. • Champagne glass (These mostly used for breaking news.) Newspaper • Story forms (with reading devices). • Alternative story forms (driven by reading devices). • Stand-alone story forms (usually without reading devices).

  12. Utility: Secondary reading devices • Supplemental forms that go with traditional story forms. They supplement, clarify and explain. --“Beyond the Inverted Pyramid”/News University

  13. Utility: Secondary reading devices • Contact Us. • Quote Box. • What Readers Think. • Timeline. • Process. • Reaction. • Key Facts (Key Questions, What’s At Stake, What’s Next, What It Means to You.) • Q & A. (Basic questions.) • By The Numbers. • Background. • Oklahoma Ties. • Online Refer. • For Your Information (generic) • Allegations. • Bio Box (Person, Company or Place). • Face to Face. • How to Help/How to Get Help

  14. Ways to become leaner • Focus quickly (Emphasize the important and human element). • Always ask what the reader needs to know. • Cut unnecessary words: • 1. Trim prepositions (two per sentence). • 2. Shorten sentences to average of 15 to 20 words. • 3. Trim adjectives and adverbs. • 4. Use active tense instead of passive: The boy threw the ball, instead of The ball was thrown to the boy. • Eliminate factual quotes. Example: “The honorable Mayor John Brown will schedule the Moore City Council meeting at 2 p.m. Monday at city hall,” City Manager Jay Smith said. • Trim unnecessary background: Keep it one sentence or, at most, a paragraph. (Or, use it as a secondary reading device.) • A brief can be one source. All other story forms should have multiple sources.

  15. Ways to become leaner • From Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute: • Cut passages that don’t support the focus of the story. • Cut the weakest of quotations, anecdotes, scenes to give greater power to the strongest elements. • Don’t invite editors to cut. You know your story better. Mark “optional trims” should they become actual cuts. • And …

  16. …In memory of George Carlin • Be specific and avoid bureaucratic terms and jargon, or what George Carlin called “soft language.” • Here’s an excerpt … (warning, profanity after 1:13) • "Soft Language"

  17. Communication becomes even more vital • A reporter should spend two to five minutes talking to an assigning editor before going out on an assignment. The editor and reporter should discuss the possible story form and secondary reading devices that the reporter should use in the coverage. • Assignment editors should communicate to the desks the forms and secondary reading devices that will be used. • Design desks should communicate when a reading device has been omitted because of space. (Holes in story?)

  18. Challenge yourself … If you’re a reporter: • … avoid equating length w/importance. Readers don’t. • … discuss stories and length with your assignment editor. If you’re an assignment editor: • … talk to reporters about appropriate story lengths and secondary reading devices. • … discuss story forms and packages with the design/copy desks. If you’re a designer/copy editor • … trim a story without cutting key areas, such as the end in a narrative. • … let the assignment desk know when a reading device has been omitted.

  19. And start training yourself now. Thank you!

  20. Special thanks and credits Joe Hight, EDItor, colo. gazette Mario Garcia, design Expert Amy Raymond, senior news editor