Saturday, 7 July 2007

Star seeks brevity

Kathy English, a former Toronto Sun reporter settling in as the Toronto Star's new public editor, writes about brevity in newspapers in today's column.

The Toronto Sun embraced brevity from Day One in 1971, banishing the continuation of stories to another page weekdays and allowing only the occasional two-page feature in the Sunday Sun.

Sun readers who favoured a quick read during their morning commute to work applauded the tabloid's style - tight and bright. It was the Sun's mantra and it worked.

The Sun has lost sight of tight and bright in recent years, with its multiple page special reports weekdays on various issues and with its non-tabloid war casualty coverage.

So it is interesting that at a point when Sun stories are getting longer, the Toronto Star editorial orchestrators are listening to the demands of readers who don't have time for lengthy stories.

The call at the revamped and much more reader-friendly broadsheet is for brevity.

Says Kathy in her column: "Studies indicate that it takes an average reader one minute to read 200 words. I've written 614 words here. Will you stay with me for the next three minutes or so, or is your weekend to-do list beckoning?"

We did stay to the end, but take Kathy back to her days at the Sun in the 1980s and she would have found a way to say all that she said today in 200 words.

As she writes at the end of her column today, "we must not forget that for busy readers, brevity is more often best."

Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt, co-founders of the Toronto Sun, knew from the start that brevity "is best" for a tabloid.

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