AP Tells Reporters That Their Stories Are Too Long; Cut Out 'Bloated Mid-Level Copy'
from the but-why? dept
Every so often when we have guest posters here at Techdirt, they ask “what word count are you looking for” and I always provide the same answer: as long as it takes to tell the story you’re telling — no more, no less. This is the internet, and sometimes stories can be quite short and get the point across, and other times they can be quite long. There may be times that we’re concerned where a story goes on too long, but that’s mainly because it may lead to the key points disappearing in a sea of other stuff. In those cases, we may look for ways to shorten the post, or possibly split it into a multi-part series. But in an age where we don’t need to fit things into a limited number of column inches, it seems appropriate to argue that any story should be as long as it needs to be.
The Associated Press, it appears, has other ideas. It has sent out a memo to folks that most of its stories need to be shorter:
Citing a “sea of bloated mid-level copy,” Associated Press Managing Editor for U.S. News Brian Carovillano last week instructed fellow editors at the wire service to limit most “daily, bylined digest stories” to a length of between 300 and 500 words. Top stories from each state, Carovillano directed, should hit the 500 to 700-word range, and the “top global stories” may exceed 700 words but must still be “tightly written and edited.”
Now, it’s true that in many cases (1) the AP is shooting for a much more mainstream audience and (2) they do have to worry about a limited number of column inches. But, still, the idea that stories across the board need to be “shorter” seems like a silly way to deal with it. We could argue (and, plenty of times, we will) that AP stories should be better written, but saying that they should all be shorter seems like a very weak hack to fix bad writing. Why not just focus on writing better?