Magazine article The Masthead

In Letters and Columns Alike, Less Is More

Magazine article The Masthead

In Letters and Columns Alike, Less Is More

Article excerpt

Yesterday's mail brought you two letters that needed to be screened for publication before the morning news meeting.

One letter was three pages long; the other, half a page. Which did you read first?

Admit it: Our attention spans are under siege. Most of the time we take the path of least resistance. It's the same for our readers, except their attention spans are shorter.

Newspapers are fighting for readers' attention against some sexy opponents, including television, radio, the Internet, and other digital sources that provide information in tight, quick, easily digested packages. Newspapers' counteroffensive has employed graphics, lists, tables, timelines, and digests. Magazines have made editorial content even briefer, hipper, and hotter.

The mission is to attract readers. Why should opinion pages be any different?

True, opinion pages have traditionally been the gray eminence of the newspaper, with the emphasis on gray. They are the places where thoughtful readers gather, editorialists pontificate, and the writers append academic lettering to their names.

And readers have been going right on past. Do we really want to write only for the academics and policy makers?

Opinion pages must still include thoughtful commentary and in-depth analysis of issues, but it benefits no one to do that work in a vacuum, lob One is to get the reader to the page. We must use graphics, photos, lists, digests, and ... yes, shorter reads.

Over the past year, we at the Visalia Times-Delta have installed many of these features on our opinion page. …

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