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BY WILL ELLIOTT
Organizing and writing multiple items for an outdoor page, or any outdoors publication format, can be a tactical task.
Modern computer programs allow for all kinds of layout arrangements. But the “simple” task of sorting out the lead, middle, and end items can be daunting.
Think of outdoor news items as sorting and folding clothes fresh out of the dryer — or from the clothes line, if you’re the outdoorsy type.
Each person’s clothes represent departments or areas (fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, etc.) and each item gets folded and stacked in some kind of order.
Every outdoor writer and editor knows that incoming items can be a tangled mess, like laundry churning inside the clothes dryer. Our task is to organize clothes (or news) as soon as they come out of the machine (or off the news wire).
Think of the planning stages that go into sorting items. For example, you try to get each pair of socks lined up to match and hope to avoid multiple moves of that one odd sock. Same goes for items that might be important lead columns rather than notebook or calendar items.
Maintaining this “thread” metaphor, when thinking through page layouts as clothes sorting, you often come up with connections among items. For example, you picked up three shirts that Johnny gets dirty before he’s left the house. But his dress shirts might hit hangers before they get folded with the rough stuff.
Same goes for news items. In the old days, front page news items were sorted as priority pieces for placement above the fold. That fold came at the middle of the page laterally. But newspapers long ago were also folded vertically with the right side showing on the news stand. Most editors gave the very top item that right side of the fold.
You can do the same thing with your selection of items for publication in your paper’s outdoor section or page. lace your best material at the top, drawing and holding readers’ attention and continued interest in remaining outdoor content.
With appealing teases, you can draw commentary on recent articles to publish, making a page more interesting.
It’s a matter of sorting. You may have to do research for specific details, but when sorting clothes you know what items belong to whom. Likewise, be aware of ongoing issues related to the outdoors, good news sources, reliable fact-checking resources and sources for commentary.
When sorting clothes, we try not to pick up, drop, and then pick up that item again. It’s a waste of time. Everything eventually goes some place — whether clothes or outdoor news items. Even “on hold” news items have been sorted ahead of time and will go into the basket in a more organized way later in an upcoming edition.
Most daily newspapers publish lead news stories immediately. Outdoors items often end up as short pieces. With an outdoor page, one has the luxury of sorting through the news stories and following up with a detailed outdoors perspective on that event, etc.
In the old days, stacks of papers often were piled around the desks of full-time writers and editors. Now, computer files that should be regularly sorted, used, or (in this era of no rag bag), deleted to give thought and room to production-worthy material.
The clothes-sorting organizational approach offers a healthy approach to topic selection for individual column writing and prioritizing of a mixed-up basket full of content for a page or magazine layout.
It’s in the folds and folding. Give it some thought when organizing your writing.♦
A member since 1988, Will Elliott is a columnist for The Buffalo News and New York Outdoor News. He is also a freelancer. Elliott is a member of AGLOW, POMA, POWA, and past president of NYOWA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.