Alternative gameday

The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., is trying something different in its sports coverage. The paper is using an alternative story form for game stories on Duke football. (It’s wise to pick an obscure sport for this type of experiment!)

Instead of an inverted pyramid story with a summary lead and requisite quotes from players and coaches, the story of the game is broken into categories. This is worth a try, especially in an era when the newspaper day-after story faces the challenge of ESPN and the Web, where fans can follow almost any game play by play online. Those readers want something more than just a 25-inch story that recounts what they already know.

The N&O approach is interesting, but it has a few rough edges. Here’s what works and what needs work:

WHAT WORKS

  • The items are set up effectively, and none runs too long. And they still add up to a significant story.
  • The “review” item creates a benchmark that can be used throughout the season.
  • The “call to action” at the end is a good way to tell readers that more on the Duke game is available online.

WHAT NEEDS WORK

  • Some introductory text is needed. Without it, this presentation has an inappropriate “in medias res” tone.
  • The typeface for the body copy may be hard on the eyes of some readers.
  • The Web version doesn’t have the same effect as the print one does. This is often true with these story forms.

DISCLAIMER: I have worked with the N&O on story forms and am a co-author on its handbook on the topic.