AP advises journalists to 'Consider using alternative story forms'

The Washington Post

Brian Carovillano, AP's managing editor for U.S. news, sent a memo to staff saying stories are getting too long and the news co-op's members "do not have the resources to trim the excess to fit shrinking news holes." Most stories should be between 300 to 500 words, Erik Wemple reports, and state top stories shouldn't be longer than 700 words.

Carovillano suggests ways to hit those targets. No. 1: Stick to the word count you were assigned. No. 2: "Consider using alternative story forms either to break out details from longer stories, or in lieu of a traditional text story."

So is AP getting into the listicle business? A search for a BuzzFeed-style list from AP proved fruitless (full disclosure: I have illustrated some AP Stylebook changes with GIFs) but a lucky blogger can find some items that show AP is not averse to playing with form:

AP also recently inspired the U.S. Agency for International Development to publish an 841-word listicle responding to AP's 1,648-word story about a secret "Cuban Twitter."

Related: This seems like an opportune moment to link to Roy Peter Clark's book on writing short. Here's the book's introduction.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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