Giving credit: What I gained from USA Today

It turns out that USAT‘s write-tight style works very well for blogging: Short posts, with impact high. Eye-catching art, and provocative headlines with reader-friendly terms — what, where, when, why, how, etc.

That’s a dividend from having worked at Gannett’s flagship for nearly eight years: My writing and self-editing skills really improved. Competing on the same national stories, I often packed as much information — or more — into less space, because I adhered to USA Today‘s famous, tight format. (Folks who don’t work in the newsroom may be surprised: It takes more work to write a complete, short story than it does to just dump all your information into a longer story, and force the reader to wade through it all.)

I helped heave a lot of multi-part/multi-day projects into papers in Little Rock, Boise, Louisville — and, in San Francisco, for USA Today. I worked closely with page designers and graphic artists, because I really like visuals (duh). Plus, if people don’t read my package on lax daycare regulation because it looked so gray and boring — well, my series has failed. With me looking over their shoulders, designers sometimes hesitated to suggest trimming my copy. I’d often push them to make even bigger cuts!

Earlier: My life, on Internet time

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[today’s front page, Newseum]

2 Responses to “Giving credit: What I gained from USA Today”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    For years, some Gannett editors were so busy aping peers in pissing on USAT that they didn’t understand its breakthrough ideas. Even today, when famous editors agree USAT got a few things right, they never list “tight writing.” They say “short stories.” There’s a big difference, as Jim knows.

    USAT has lost conciseness in recent years. It’s sad, because brevity is the soul of Web writing.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    There are still plenty of writers and even editors at USAT who would much rather shrink or exclude a photo or graphic than cut a story. Hard to believe that mindset still exists at USAT, but it does.

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