ACES 2012 | New Orleans

A look at alternative story forms

Two page designers offer copy editors some tips on editing flags for alternative treatments, breaking out parts of a story for alternative forms and curtailing bad design trends and habits.

By Lacey Mayo
Grambling State University

Bad design can become a habit. By offering a taste of design mistakes and the don’ts of alternative story forms, Society of New Design Vice President Rob Schneider of the Dallas Morning News and Josh Crutchmer of Minneapolis Star Tribune hope to keep those bad habits from becoming a trend.

Schneider and Crutchmer brought their page designer perspective to a room of copy editors and students Friday at the ACES national conference in New Orleans.

“We don’t like design, we love it and hate it at the same time,” Crutchmer said.

Crutchmer started the session by calling Schneider in with a drum roll. He told the crowd, “When you leave you will have an lasting impression of the guy with the obnoxious introduction rather than me, who was already here, no matter what we may say throughout the presentation.”

That’s the same sort of lasting impression you want to leave on your readers, Crutchmer said.

When looking at a newspaper, the reader’s eye is automatically drawn to the main photo or the print that is most outstanding (headlines and other display type). Designers always should ask themselves if their plan is the best way to present the information.

Their advice: Don’t go overboard. You don’t want to end up with a page without a focus or photos that compete, they said.

Not all stories will fit the alternative story form format. Editors need to look at things like space considerations. Data heavy stories fit well into the format (use basic bar, pie or line charts or by the numbers boxes) but breaking news (recap boxes, by the numbers, quote rails or what’s next boxes) and enterprise also can work with alternative forms.

There are also editing considerations when working with alternative story forms. Crutchmer and Schneider called them editing flags. There has to be consistency in writing from part to part; numbers need to be handled in a consistent manner. Tight writing (or editing) and active writing are essential for alternative storm forms.

And digital alternative forms need to have multimedia interactions, using audio/video with a purpose, they said.

Participants said there was a lot to take away from the session, but like doing design, there’s always something more that can be added.

Jamal Collier of the University of Illinois said the session had a lot of good information.

“But I want to be a reporter and I thought they would talk more about what to put in an alternative story form rather what not to do,” Collier said.

A freelance copy editor who attended said, however, that while she was unsure of attending a design session, she ended up with a lot of good information about how to put a project together in pieces to create a whole.

Comments are closed.