The challenge of Writing For a Newspaper Audience

By: E&P Staff

Craig Calcaterra |NBC Sports

Marc Carig is the Yankees’ beat writer for the Newark Star-Ledger. He’s easily my favorite Yankees’ beat guy going, partially because he does great work, partially because he’s a nice, funny guy and partially because you can tell he takes his job seriously and thinks hard about his craft.

That thinking is on display today over at his personal blog, where he talks about the challenges of trying to incorporate advanced baseball metrics in newspaper writing and the difference between his newspaper, web and Twitter readership.

Those of us who write only on the web don’t have to deal with this problem to anywhere near a degree newspaper writers like Marc do. Our readership came to us. They sought us out and, because they’re online like us, there is a decent chance that they’re at least moderately tech-savvy. When Marc started at the Star-Ledger, however, he began writing for an audience who had likely subscribed to the paper for years. Many for decades. It’s an audience – the newspaper audience in general, not just the Star-Ledger‘s — that is far more used to a more traditional handling of baseball and baseball statistics. It’s one that, if Marc is to enlighten them about things like wOBA, UZR or other metrics – which he does and which he should – it will take time and an easing into it. Remember: to most of them, Marc’s the new guy telling them different things than they’re used to hearing. On a blog, in contrast, I or anyone else could jump right in and start fresh without having to worry about alienating legacy readers. There were none.

But maybe a bigger challenge than the audience profile is the technology. I actually love to read newspapers and on some level I’m going to be sad when they aren’t around in hard copy anymore. But think of how many things other bloggers and I explain via links, parentheticals, postersiks, tables and other widgets of technology that can’t be used in newspapers. I just did it with “posterisks.” I can say “Derek Jeter’s UZR is worse than cancer” and I need not then explain what UZR is if I simply link to a detailed explanation of it. Marc doesn’t have that luxury when writing for the paper. There are space limitations for one thing. There is the frustrating inability to insert usable hyperlinks on the printed page.

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