Newswriting style as readership factor?

April 12, 2011 at 7:51 PM

COLUMBIA, Mo., April 12 (UPI) -- An ongoing decline in newspaper readership among women isn't caused by common news writing styles used in news stories, U.S. researchers say.

"We found that women are equally engaged in both 'inverted pyramid' and 'chronological narrative' news stories, so there must be another cause for the decline in female readership," said Miglena Sternadori, former doctoral student at the Missouri School of Journalism. "For example, women could be less interested in crime and negative stories that tend to fill newspapers."

In inverted pyramid style, the most important fact of the story is at the top, followed by each fact in order of importance, while narrative style is typically chronological and focuses more on storytelling rather than fact listing.

Most newspapers prefer to use inverted pyramid style when writing stories, and some have blamed it as a possible cause for the decline in female readership.

Sternadori, an assistant professor at the University of South Dakota, and Kevin Wise, an associate professor of communication at the Missouri School of Journalism, compared the reactions of participants while reading inverted pyramid style stories and chronological narrative stories, a UM release reported Tuesday.

Sternadori measured secondary task reaction times, which show how fast participants respond to secondary stimuli, such as beeping sounds, while they are reading stories. Women's overall reaction times were slower than men's but were very similar regardless of the style of news story the female participants were reading, Sternadori said.

The result shows women are engaged in what they're reading regardless of the news writing style utilized, she said.

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