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When you buy a muffin from Tim Hortons, a blueberry muffin specifically, were ever disappointed by the number of blueberries in the muffins? So many it was too-blueberry or so few it was all cake? Were you ever mad that the one you were eating didn’t have the same number of blueberries in it that the previous one had?

Me neither.

Now how about when you picked up a newspaper: Were you ever upset that one story was longer than the other, that all the stories weren’t exactly the same length.

Me neither.

Now let me take you to a staff meeting from a few months ago.

Everyone is assembled in the ‘kitchen’, sitting on plastic chairs in front of a series of long, faux-wood tables.

At the front of the room, beside the water cooler stands the publisher-in-name and managing-editor-in-practice, who will be referred to as the Big E.

The Big E is explaining the rationale behind recent measures introduced to improve story quality and get us closer to that goal which so obsesses, yet eludes, our Big E: Winning big, important newspaper awards.

Customers expect consistency, he is saying. The crowd of journalists shift ever-so-subtly in our seats. It’s like a blueberry muffin: When you are selling blueberry muffins you have to get just the right number of blueberries into each muffin. If one muffin had 25 blueberries, the customer will be disappointed by 20 – no one dares look at one another – and vice versa.

You have to get the same amount of blueberries into each muffin, you see. For the customers. So the poor souls aren’t challenged by having to force 30 blueberries into their stomachs when they only wanted the 25 they ate in the last muffin they bought.

The measure: Each and every story, in every section of the newspaper – excepting the weekend magazine section – must be no more than 500 words. Unless you have special permission. Or you will be disciplined.

For the poor sod who can’t bear a newspaper whose story lengths vary too much, one from the other. We must think of him – or her of course.

Oh yeah, for you photographers: no more pictures of smiling people for the business pages. Or you will be disciplined.


That, our readers can’t take.


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