Fighting the flab

The Wall Street Journal is rethinking how it tells stories. And how much space they give them.

A memo leaked to Poynter gives the detail.

Digitally, we will be requiring higher-quality stories much earlier in the day, especially in our enterprise and feature work, so we can publish stories at the times and in the ways our growing ranks of digital readers expect. Too often we publish at hours when readership is low, write subpar stories online in the vital minutes after something has just broken, or build our reporting and writing schedules around the print publishing cycle. We need to do far more to get our best journalism to readers at the time when they want to read it. We need to file alerts for mobile devices quickly. Our millions of smartphone users need concise, clear and timely reporting to inform their busy lives. The mobile culture is rapidly taking over our lives and we must ensure that our news is attuned to that culture.

WSJ’s approach is not new. The Washington Post went after anything over 1500 words. Short is in.

Articles were becoming too long, often for no good reason.

“We were seeing too many pieces that were in the mid-range of their ambition and their success — coming in at 60, 70 inches of copy,” Barr said. “We were seeing the same thing in a number of blogs, where pieces were just too long, and we felt as though editors were not applying the necessary discipline and rigor in how these pieces were being handled on the desk.”

The solution? A newsroom-wide initiative to cut down on editorial flab, Barr said. Since the middle of August, he’s asked Post’s department heads to take responsibility for articles longer than 1,500 words online or 50 inches in print. Bylines, captions, headlines and subheadings don’t count.