Sunday, 9 August 2009

The big pinch

Sun columnists are feeling the pinch since the downsized tabloids introduced a 650-word maximum for most columns.

The old "tight and bright" call from city editors for news stories now applies to the men and women commenting on local and worldly matters.

We hear Sun columnists would need more than 140 characters on Twitter to express how they feel about feeling the pinch.

There are egos involved in writing a column and take it from this former rewrite desk vet, you don't want to tamper with the creative prose of columnists.

We once felt the wrath of Christie Blatchford following a little rearranging and it wasn't pretty. The rewrite of a gossip column? It was man the lifeboats.

Come autumn, when all of the big guns are back from vacations, it will be interesting to see how they conform to tighter quarters on the printed page. There are already rumblings of discontent.

Most columnists prefer the open range, being allowed to set the stage, kick-start the minds of readers and have the space to build on and then close without leaving anything untold.

When you consider some news stories from staff and wire services have 50-word leads, for a column, that is a fair chunk out of 650 words.

Professionals that they are, most Sun columnists will adapt if they do not mount a successful unified protest against their verbal girdles.

But we fear 650 words just aren't enough for columnists to do justice to subjects that have long earned the Suns, especially the Toronto Sun, the hearts of readers.

Columns about real-life heroes; the plight of people in need of a light at the end of the tunnel; families of murder victims seeking justice; the search for lost sons and daughters; mistreatment of seniors and vets.

Size does matter when you are telling their stories.

When a tabloid columnist has the passion for a story that will touch the heart - or the pocketbook if that be the case - he or she is best left unbridled.

There are just under 350 words in this posting. For a columnist, that is a warm up.


  1. Actually, 650 is more than enough for most columnists. And they are writing for the Sun tabloids -- people in doughnut shops and riding the bus. Who wants to read an epic in the Sun?

  2. This does rather go towards proving the idea that the Sun and 24 will soon be the same...

  3. Brevity is the soul of wit.

  4. I'm for all shorter columns since we have to run those in our paper now as space is limited as it is.