One of the reasons readers are trading online for print that is rarely discussed is that newspaper stories are too long, while online articles are more to-the-point, Michael Kinsley argues in the Atlantic this week.
His reasoning? "Context," which newspapers pride themselves on providing, has become "an invitation to hype," causing readers to go elsewhere to just get the facts. Shorter, more concise articles could cause a boost in print sales, but existing mandatory newsroom rules to give more context may be hurting print, he writes in his column.
"The software industry has a concept known as 'legacy code,' meaning old stuff that is left in software programs, even after they are revised and updated, so that they will still work with older operating systems. The equivalent exists in newspaper stories, which are written to accommodate readers who have just emerged from a coma or a coal mine. Who needs to be told that reforming health care (three words) involves "a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system" (nine words)? Who needs to be reminded that Hillary Clinton tried this in her husband's administration without success? Anybody who doesn't know these things already is unlikely to care. (Is, in fact, unlikely to be reading the article)," Kinsley states.
All Things Digital's Peter Kafka quipped yesterday that Kinsley "takes some 1,800 words" to make his point, while Reuters' Robert MacMillan takes close to 700 words to point out that less-than-stellar writing exists on the Internet, too.
"It's not the medium, it's the writing quality. Writing can stink wherever you publish it, and at the risk of saying it again, at whatever length it appears," MacMillan pointed out.