Why Long Plunges Make for Short Stories

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In the article "20 Die in Nepal Bus Plunge" the main facts were given (what caused the crash, how many were on the bus, how many died, how many survived, the state of the injured, and so on), along with two quotes by the same person, the police inspector.  The bare facts were covered, and nothing more.

In another article, "23 Killed as Bus Plunges into Gorge in Northern India" the same type of facts were covered, as well as a quote from a police officer.  This article differed from the first by including some statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau, which stated that 300 people die in road accidents in India each year, and then gave some causes for these accidents (this reminded me of one thing most of our classmates disliked about the news: its tendency to make crimes and accidents seem more common than they actually are. In this case 300 is not an appalling number, but given in this context, it can appear that way).

Basically what's common about these stories is that they do not need to gather many quotes from many different sources.  Really, even if there were witnesses to the accident, would they be able to tell the reader anything aside from the experience was "terrifying" or "horrible"?  These are all things the reader is doubtlessly intelligent enough to infer on his/her own.  However, if the driver was assumed to be sick, drunk, or in any other state that would leave him unfit for driving, then a witness saying "the bus was swerving all over the road" may be helpful.  Though, then the story may actually entail a bit more coverage than a short article.  It seems to me that a traditional "bus plunge" story is short because not much information is required to cover it.    

To read more comparisons, click here.

2 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

I think that they don’t need to gather many quotes simply because usually the reporter is not interested in making a “bus plunge” story a full-blown article. If they did and went and got lots of quotes from people, it would expand the article and destroy its very point of filling a small empty space (because it would be too long to do so). There are plenty of quotes that could be gotten from such an accident though, I think. You could interview friends and family of the deceased, the injured, and people in the community who might be more afraid of riding buses now. Therefore, I think the story could be as long or as short as they need it to be.

It does seem like for the most part the bus plunge stories are there to fill up space and therefore can't use many quotes. I did read one story that interviewed the family and friends of one victim, and it was very detailed. But I think that story was probably unusual. If there are twenty-some deaths involved in a bus crash, it would be very time-consuming to interview people connected to all the people in the crash, and you wouldn't be able to fit all the information into the article. Then you have to make the difficult decision of which victims to cover in detail. So there's almost no choice but to cover a story like this with only a few short paragraphs, unless you want to focus on just a few people who were involved in the accident.

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