Newspapers use too many words.

Everybody likes getting to the point. There are, however, some old school journalistic conventions that say you should “provide context,” otherwise known as “beating around the bush.” We don’t like to beat around bushes on the internet. We go straight for the bush. Maybe that didn’t come out right.

Anyway, this is a fine article about how print journalists, who say that everybody hates them, are writing in a dated style that nobody wants to read. It’s about providing lots of extra words when a few will do, so I think I’ll shut up and provide an excerpt.

Take, for example, the lead story in The New York Times on Sunday, November 8, 2009, headlined “Sweeping Health Care Plan Passes House.” There is nothing special about this article. November 8 is just the day I happened to need an example for this column. And there it was. The 1,456-word report begins:

Handing President Obama a hard-fought victory, the House narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system on Saturday night, advancing legislation that Democrats said could stand as their defining social policy achievement.

Fewer than half the words in this opening sentence are devoted to saying what happened. If someone saw you reading the paper and asked, “So what’s going on?,” you would not likely begin by saying that President Obama had won a hard-fought victory. You would say, “The House passed health-care reform last night.” And maybe, “It was a close vote.” And just possibly, “There was a kerfuffle about abortion.” You would not likely refer to “a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system,” as if your friend was unaware that health-care reform was going on. Nor would you feel the need to inform your friend first thing that unnamed Democrats were bragging about what a big deal this is—an unsurprising development if ever there was one.


3 Responses to Newspapers use too many words.

  1. Jason W says:

    Actually, I find that print media tends to use fewer words, because they have actual space constraints, whereas Internet writers can go on forever and not have to worry about their text running off the page.

  2. I’m sorry, i couldn’t read this post. It had too many words in it.

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