Two-Way Street

Missing the Discipline of Newspapers


Is there a difference between writing for the Web and writing for another medium, say, newspapers?

It was a question that came up during a discussion by a couple of colleagues at a recent biz journo confab. The general consensus? Good writing is good writing, be it paper or pixel.

But is that totally correct? For a lot of time-compressed readers, the Internet is about brevity. They tend to like quick, to the point, stories ... at least our readers seem to. But then again, our longer features tend to get their fair share of attention as well. My guess is that it depends on the subject. Some topics or tales deserve longer treatment.

But many don't. And that leads to a lot of bad writing on the Internet. It lacks the discipline of newspaper writing.

At a newspaper you are told how much space your story is going to get. When you are trying to cram a lot of details into nine column-inches, you tend to choose your words carefully and make your sentences swift and terse.

But the Internet goes on and on. There's no cut off, no penalty for wordiness. And so turgid prose abounds.

We try to stomp on it around here, with varying degrees of success. You folks out there point it out from time to time, which we appreciate. But it is something to stay on watch for as the digital age moves forward.