Saturday, September 22, 2012

Storytelling without a classic 'nut graf'

Many times -- most times, perhaps -- we write stories so that early on, they deliver a strong "nut graf," or the answer to the reader's question of, "Why am I reading this?" That nut graf can take various forms: It's constructed differently in a straight news story than it is in a feature, for example.

But Ashley May wrote this story, about people who live at a motel, a little differently. As we worked on the story, we talked about wanting to tell a story without that classic, anchoring paragraph. Our reasoning: It wasn't a news story and wasn't a trend story; it's a human story that's happening in our community. We wanted to lay down enough markers early in the story to make it clear what readers would be getting, but we wanted the story to develop without the classic nut graf.

But copy editor Dan Rorabaugh, on his first read of the piece, felt like it didn't deliver enough on what the story was about or why a reader should care to read it.

His points were good. So Ashley and I talked, and worked on meeting Dan halfway -- we tried to strengthen those markers to make sure the reader knew why the piece was worth reading, and hint at what they'd get out of the story.

Read the piece and let us know how we did.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Writing short: It's about what you say

That is so true. I think when we talk about inch counts for stories -- I'm mostly thinking about projects or enterprise pieces, but it really holds for any story -- reporters can interpret that as quality reduction: If I could write 10 more inches, or 20, or 30, my story would be that much better. But if I can only write x-amount, my story's only going to be so good.

There are reasons to write longer, sometimes. But Murray's wisdom, as Clark notes, tells us it's not about the space you use to say something, it's about what you say in that space.

Friday, September 14, 2012

And then, every once a while, you get a letter like this

The YDR newsroom, like every newsroom, is used to taking criticism from readers. 

But sometimes you get a letter, even a short one, that reads like a bouquet of flowers.

 A little while ago, we got this one:

"Dear Sir,

I just wanted to drop a note to let you know how much I appreciate the York Daily Record and the articles that I read every Sunday. Each one of the writers does a wonderful job at description within the articles, bringing the reader into the story.

Keep up the wonderful work,

Emily Hack
Thomasville, Pa."

We try. And thank you kindly.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good reads: A next-day news obit shines

I'm not sure anyone does a next-day news obituary story like Mike Argento. I'm thinking of this piece on the death of York community activist Dorrie Leader, reported and written in a day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fiction, one episode at a time

There's something really intriguing about this idea: A publishing house that delivers works of fiction to your e-device one installment, or episode, at a time. It's called Plympton and they're running a Kickstarter fundraising project. They're doing it, they say, "for the future of reading."

I feel like this would be more fun that having the entire National Geographic issue show up on my Kindle Fire (and mind you, I love NG, but it's a tough read on a 7-inch tablet).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A song's story

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Visual storytelling: The day in photos at Penn State coach Bill O'Brien's first game

The Daily Record/Sunday News is reporting on a new era in Penn State football in a million ways -- among them, of course, visually. Here are collected images that, if you were to look at no other coverage of today's events -- could tell the story by themselves.