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Sic Transit Bus Plunge

2006-11-14 16:45:06.897533+00 by petronius 3 comments

An interesting story from Slate: The decline of the venerable "Bus Plunge Story" from the nation's newspapers. These tiny, one paragraph/two sentence stories would give the bare outline of some tragic carreen into a mountain abyss by a bus overloaded with hapless natives in some benighted country. They were used in those days before computerized typesetting as one inch fillers underneath too-short stories.

When I was a kid the Chicago papers used Porch Fall stories the same way. Underneath a regular report of some big fire you would find a micro-story like, "Stanley Gritis of the 400 block of N. Springfield broke his leg when he fell off his porch roof while painting on Tuesday. He was treated and released from St. Elizabeth's Hospital." There were maybe a dozen per day. The city papers jointy supported a news bureau which gather these reports from the fire and police departments and funnelled them back to the newsroom. Nobdy thought anything of them. I wonder what media convention of today will look as add to people 50 years hence?

[ related topics: Nostalgia Current Events Journalism and Media Typography Public Transportation ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-11-14 21:01:59.093499+00 by: Dan Lyke

Interesting how content follows form.

Jim Winstead pointed to some Hollywood gossip thing about Geffen buying the LA Times:

He’ll demand quality. He’ll ratchet up the Web site (even though he hates how prohibitively expensive it is to do that).

And Jim's reaction (and mine) was wondering what the heck is so expensive about a web site? Given how little I feel I've gotten for my money the last few times I've bought a dead-trees paper, maybe it's that you can't fill it with little one-offs, or that nobody's discovered the design that'll let readers tolerate that, so you have to have more columnists and more in-depth stories.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-11-14 22:11:35.959412+00 by: petronius

I fail to see how "ratcheting up the website" will help the print edition in any meaningful way. As to the paper itself, the staff is hoping some new local owner will be a nice fool who leaves them alone and doesn't insist on actually doing anything, except underwriting their salaries.

As to content following form, look at the recent innovation of mini-editions of newspapers. The ones in chicago are free, very small, and have no story longer than about 6 paragraphs. Perfect for a fast read on the elevated train on the way to work. It would be interesting to track how many people then go to the website for a more indepth look at individual stories. Or if they don't at all. I suspect they aren't the gateway to more media use the owners hope; they're more like the headline news radio station.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-11-14 22:27:57.70389+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't know how the business works in LA, and to be honest I haven't followed it all that much here in the Bay Area, but SFGate.com is diverging from the SF Chronicle. There are columns and columnists exclusive to the web site, and if you cornered the editors and got an honest answer about where they think the relative values of the two properties (and demographics of readership) will be in twenty years, I'd bet they'd say that the paper is doomed long-term, and the readers in twenty years will all be over sixty.

I think it's also interesting to watch as the writers who are core to the paper version transition to weblogs on the online version. The stylistic differences between, say, Mark Morford and Michael Bauer are amazing. And not just because the former's a flippant columnist and the latter's a restaurant reviewer.

I don't know how that culture flows the other way, but if it does it'll help the paper stay relevant to potential new readers for longer.