Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Topic: Newspapers

Comment: Circulation continues to go down. The Philadelphia Inquirer has filed for bankruptcy. Other newspapers, including the New York Times, are also in trouble. Long successful newspapers are failing. Why? Why have people stopped reading newspapers?

I think one reason is that newspapers rarely use the old-fashioned lead with “who? what? where? when? why? and how?” Reporters begin with true-life stories, the technique I was taught to use in writing compositions in school. That approach might be all right for feature stories, but not for news stories. The human interest stories only postpone the information I want to know. I keep looking for that information and, when it comes in pieces throughout the news article, I give up and quit. (By the way, the most discouraging words a TV reporter can use in responding to the anchor’s lead is to say, “I’ll get to that in a moment.”)

The traditional newspaper lead told all I wanted to know about the essence of the story and then I was free to read for any details about which I was curious. Contrary to what most people think, the Internet will not take its place. The headlines on the Internet don’t tell me enough—just enough to suggest that the story has, or has no, real interest for me. Most headlines do not make me curious enough about the story to make me want to read it. Ironically. the lead gave me enough information to make me want to read further. I say, bring back the lead to newspaper writing. And the readers will follow.

Why are people no longer reading newspapers? What do my readers think? RayS.

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