Version A, Version B (for Bias)
: I hear more rumbling about the Associated Press’ announcement that it will issue two leads on stories to its newspaper clients.
The grumbling comes out of the examples given in the Editor & Publisher story:
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs. The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) Yet again, almost as if scripted, a day of hope for a new, democratic Iraq turned into a day of tears as a bloody insurgent attack undercut a political step forward.
On Thursday, just as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad were telling reporters that they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government, a suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners in the northern city of Mosul.
And there should, indeed, be grumbling about that: One straight, one overdone and eeyorish, reading into this attack something that’s not there.
It looks as if they need to issue a third version: Version C (for Conservative):
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) Despite a horrendous terrorist attack that killed 47 and injured more than 100 innocent Iraqis in a funeral procession, the nation’s march to democracy continues as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.
Pretty good, if I do say so myself.
That’s one problem with this AP plan: Adding writerly atmosphere will add, uh, perspective and that will add complaints.
But for most news media, I’ve said that we need more perspective so long as we are more open about it. Not for the AP, though.
I have a different problem with this plan: It wastes readers’ time.
The problem with too much newspaper writing these days is that the writer shows off his writing for so many paragraphs you can’t find what the story is about until well after the jump. It’s a game of lead-lead-who-can-find-the-lead?
Meanwhile, online, we have clearly learned that readers want to find the information they’re seeking quickly and directly and they hate whatever gets in their way. That lesson should be learned not only online but also in print: Stop wasting readers’ time showing off your writing and get to the point.
And that is all the more relevant to the stories we’re talking about here: The news the AP delivers is — not to put too fine a point on it — commodity news. This is the news everyone will have precisely because the AP does such a good job delivering it.
New organizations spend too much resource redoing that news even though the audience already knows it — thanks to online, TV, radio, SMS bulletins, blogs… — and that not only costs money that could be put toward the efforts that make these news organizations uniquely valuable (i.e., reporting and local news), it also tarts up a simple news story and makes it less convenient: It adds leads just like the example above.
We won’t see many of these leads online because the AP is delivering them only to newspaper clients, so it will be hard to compare and contrast here. But I’m sure you’ll manage to find a way.