Is the inverted pyramid dying?


Are alternative story forms killing the inverted pyramid, a journalist’s legendary tool? According to Andy Bechtel, Professor at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UNC Chapel Hill, “readers seem to have less and less time to read, you need to help them get the information they need.”

I learned about the inverted pyramid from Bruce Itule’s classic book “News writing and reporting for today’s media.” Legions learned how to write a story with the “who, what, when, where, why and how? (5W’s + H)”.

Readers are now suffering from low attention spans, are abundantly distracted and this straight lead format is declining in popularity. People want quicker, deeper and richer experiences.

And, storytellers who can create simple, digestible content are in demand. Imagine a new bridge being built in your County. The inverted pyramid would have told you the “who, what, when, where, why and how?.” But today’s readers want an initial snapshot, a quick visual description. Then, the more curious ones want to know the bridge’s impact, the burden on the taxpayer, the environmental fallout, the timeline and other facts.

Less words please and more visual imagery, they are crying out.

Alternative story forms provide soothing and engaging experiences for readers, across print, television and the web. They use question & answers, infographics, testimonials and other visual designs .

However, the way we write a story to keep the reader engaged rests largely on the writer’s skill irrespective of the medium. As Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark teaches us, let’s “make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right.”