New tasty McNugget news! With spicy comment sauce!

8 04 2010

My grade was on the line. So were the other 20-odd people in the radio broadcasting class.

The instructor looked down at us and uttered those fateful words.

“Write copy for your on-air newscast. Inverted pyramid, eight news items, weather and traffic. You have fifteen minutes,” he said.

And then, the kicker.

“If your news item is more than four lines long, it’s TOO long. Cut it. People won’t listen that long.”

I thought when I left radio, that idea would go out the window.

That shows you what I know.

It seems that writing for the Web has become much like radio—short bites of information, with entertainment in between.

The new style even employs the same format as radio. The words are different, but the idea is the same: open with the big station promo, tease to what’s coming up, promote your fellow DJs, and get your listeners to call in because people love to hear themselves on the radio.

Writing for the Web now? Open with the big headline, tease with a good summary deck, hyperlink to other writers, and keep those comment boards open because people love to see themselves in print.

I’m not sure I like how this is going. That copy assignment for my radio class had me sweating. What goes? What stays? Is it too long? Too short? Does it say what it needs to say?

That’s the real problem. We’ve gotten used to the McNugget version of news. We don’t explore on our own. We’ve outsourced our own curiosity to people we think are trustworthy.

News organizations aren’t doing the public a favor by chunking up the news. We’re not helping ourselves by letting them. And considering the state of radio, perhaps it’s not a good idea to copy a dying industry.

Chunks belong in my peanut butter. Not news writing.




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