Smartly edited story forms

asf-xgr1A recent NewsU Webinar built on what’s already known about alternative story forms: They attract readers and help them retain information. A successful ASF is, as the Webinar’s presenters emphasized, “smartly edited.”

This page from The News & Observer is an example of an alternative approach that works. (Try this .pdf for a better view.) The news is the return of state lawmakers for their next session. The event is cyclical, and it contains many themes and sub-plots. It also has the potential to be deadly dull.

In days gone by, a newspaper would have its political reporter write a 30-inch roundup (or “curtain raiser”) with a 10-inch sidebar. A copy editor would edit it and write a headline like this:

Solons
to mull
budget

That doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did. Newspapers have to become smarter to help their readers be better informed. This package of stories, complete with a list and plenty of chunky text, does that. Readers can learn a lot about the General Assembly thanks to these smartly edited (and sharply designed) story forms.

Do copy editors play an important role in creating story forms? Of course. And here’s one that needs another edit.

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