Editing the news: In 2012 it’s a bold new idea

Mark Twain didn’t actually say “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” (It was Blaise Pascal.)

But the point holds. Writing short and tight takes time.

Which might explain why the news web site I used to run has 485 links today on its home page. It’s just easier to include everything and let the reader sort it all out.

But what would a news site look like if editors actually, you know, edited.

One answer arrived this week. This was not a Knight News Challenge winner or the result of months of research and development. It’s a quick side-project from Mule Design, and it’s called Evening Edition.

This is what the news world could look like If simplicity-appreciating geeks ran it.

Jon Mitchell of Read Write Web has the back-story, in his article These Designers Did for Fun What News Sites Can’t Do to Save Their Business:

It’s edited by Anna Rascouët-Paz, online media editor at Annual Reviews. She combs the day’s political and economic news from around the world, picks out the stories she finds important, and writes a paragraph explaining the significance of each story, including links to the reporting.

“It’s not aggregation,” (the agency’s design director Mike) Monteiro makes clear. She often combines several sources into a concise summary. It draws on other people’s reporting, like just about all of what passes as news these days – but Evening Edition performs a critical journalistic function that often falls by the wayside online: It elevates the significant information above the noise.

Oh and this: They took it from concept to live site in about a week.

I’m making a conscious choice here. I’m going to celebrate what’s right with Evening Edition, rather than focus on what feels wrong (most notably that it wears its once-a-day-with-no-updates ethos with a pride that’s weird in a medium that is built upon being live and linked).

There’s a lot to like.

What’s right: It’s edited. Like it or not, Evening Edition is the result of choices by a human editor. What you get is there because she decided that’s what you get. Great Ceasar’s Ghost!

What’s right: It’s clean. Look at this on your laptop and you’ll see a simple two-column layout. Open it on your phone, and the responsive single-column design is there in all its scroll-friendly glory.

What’s right: It’s just enough news. Assuming the editor does her job well, this could very well be all you need to read to feel as if you’re reasonably well caught-up on the day’s important stories.

What’s right: It exists. This isn’t a scribble in a notebook, it’s not a mind-map and it most assuredly is not a committee meeting that’s scheduled for every other Thursday. This is a swing at an answer to the question of how to present news to a busy modern reader. It may not be the perfect answer but, as the bold-face says, it exists, here and now.

What do you think? Is just-enough news a concept whose time has come?

Tim Windsor

VP, Content & Conversion at LendingPoint LLC
I lead media companies and other organizations that want to develop and improve their mobile and digital strategies and technologies, grow audience, and build sustainable digital revenue.