Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Got time to read the news?

One thing I notice happening a lot: A newspaper article I submit gets cut. It's not that I mind my precious words getting snipped; it's that I notice it's been happening quite often. And as I page through the paper I send these articles in for, I notice a lot of other stories are brief, as well. I read some and think "well, the writer could've gone into more detail” here or "why wasn't some background on this group included" there, and I can only wonder if these missing pieces were either chopped from the story or simply overlooked.

One of my favorite newspapers, The Los Angeles Times, rarely leaves me unsatisfied. I read the articles in that paper knowing every aspect of that story will be covered, and it almost always is. It's the reason I preferred this paper over my old local one; the stories were covered better. Another reason is that the Los Angeles Times covered more world news, something my local paper relied on A.P. newsfeeds for. (I'm not trying to bash them here; not a lot of local papers competing with the biggies have a comfortable budget.) Funny thing is, I'm in that situation again. Which is why I've switched back to reading The New York Times (funny how I choose a major Northeast newspaper over a major Northwest one).

But, thinking about it, not only are we talking about reading the news that is in-depth, but also news that covers a broader piece of the planet.

But I digress.

With some newspaper stories, it's understandable if it's brief. Take, for example, the Calendar items. You won't be reading anything that long there; mostly it's your standard "who, what, where, when and why." Sometimes maybe even a "how." (Depending on the event??) But the thing is, my articles aren't your average "in brief" pieces. Actually, a good deal of them can be compared to a magazine's feature article. This is how I handle them, anyway, especially if it concerns a major issue. This is why it's usually long. Heck, one recent article I sent in ran at 5 pages! Then there's the 6-page one. (And, yes, I've done longer, but not for the newspaper.) And almost always, I'm asked "can you trim it in half?" or I'm told "I condensed it."

Sometimes this happens for an understandable reason: Money. Sometimes they can't afford an extra jump or sometimes they've just got to make room.

It actually happened that I uncovered the reason why my editor prefers short articles. I brought up the length issue in a recent chat and she let me know that it was, indeed, a matter of finances that limited how much of an article could go into each issue. Sad that newspapers such as SIGNews, which can be helpful to a group in the world considered to be a minority, must endure financial constraints. I count my lucky stars the paper is still in business, and if shortening the articles means it’s the only way for it to STAY in business, I’m not going to whine.

I just wonder, though, if people would rather read a shorter newspaper article. I'm reminded of how people are reading the news on their way to work or skimming stories during their lunch break and think, perhaps, a short article to read might entice them a little more. I know there were many times I've scanned newspaper AND magazine articles, opting to read through a short one during the breaks I get while my daughter is watching Little Bear, eating or playing in the tub. (Sometimes I'll even stay at the table after I've eaten just so I can read something real quick.) So it would make sense if the article was shorter. After all, the editor can always ask for a longer piece if she feels a part of the story should be elaborated on, and certain items can go into a resource box or sidebar.

The important thing is that a story gets covered in a way readers will be satisfied. After all, if they've got the extra time to read more on a subject, they can either find me after doing a Google search or do their own research online.


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