Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Box out
As noted here awhile ago, copy editors can play a significant role in making alternative story forms better. One way we can do that is identifying possible textboxes and pulling them out of the gray text of stories. Here are two recent examples:
  • This News & Observer sports story on the departure of Johnny Dawkins to Stanford includes several paragraphs at the end about other Duke coaches who have left to become head coaches elsewhere. With the obligatory "meanwhile," the section of the story feels tacked on, and its delivery is rushed and jumbled. It's a perfect opportunity to break that information out as a separate item as part of the story package. Make it a grid-style textbox with each person's name, destination and coaching record.
  • This Charlotte Observer news story attempts to tell the story of a possible burglary. It does so in a narrative style. (My fellow blogger FEV has a good critique of this here.) Near the end of the story, the writer introduces a detective with the Charlotte police who offers some tips on foiling such crimes. Then the story drops back into narrative mode. The bullet points should have been a clue: This is a textbox. Remove it from the story and make it a separate item. As is, the tips damage the flow of the "story" that the writer is trying to tell.
EyeTrack research has indicated that readers notice alternative story text and recall more information from it versus traditional text, whether it's in print or online. Let's help the reader and make that happen.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 1:25 PM | Permalink |


  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger TootsNYC

    Both of these examples are situations in which the MAGAZINES I have worked at would have automatically put in a box, a sidebar.

    Is it possible that newspaper editors only need to look a little afield (instead of far afield) to find these "alternative story forms"?

    That these are just sidebars, which we magazine folks have been doing for eons?

  • At 4:35 PM, Blogger Andy Bechtel


    Yes, newspapers have a lot to learn from magazines.

    One magazine I especially like these days is ShopSmart. It's Consumer Reports "remixed" into alternative story forms. You can get a feel for the magazine here: