September 5, 2016

BREVITY:

A Short History of The Times's Shortest Story (DANIEL VICTOR, SEPT. 2, 2016, NY Times)

"No."

That one word was the entirety of an article I wrote that was published online Thursday and in print editions on Friday. I haven't scoured The Times's archives, but I feel comfortable calling it the shortest article in the history of The New York Times.

I mean, it'd be pretty hard to beat.

To understand how it came about, you should first understand what Express does. We're a small team focused on breaking news and other stories that we think will appeal primarily to our digital audience, regardless of the subject area. We've been encouraged to experiment with voice, tone and story format to see what resonates with our online readers. We do a lot of serious news, but we also have the freedom to occasionally get a little weird.

Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how daily news, features and opinion pieces come to life at The New York Times. Visit us at Times Insider and follow us on Twitter. Questions or feedback? Email us.

The "No" story started when The Times's newsroom was struck by an email thread that went off the rails. The first email, about an upcoming ad campaign, was sent at 12:04 p.m. by someone who works in product, and for some reason it went out to what seemed like the entire company. Then the reply-all responses began: "Please remove me from this list," "Off please," "Remove me," "I don't belong in here," et cetera.

As someone who deeply enjoys chaos in all of its darkest forms, I was thrilled. I giddily tweeted in all caps. In an internal chat room where members of the Express Team pitch story ideas and make dumb jokes to each other, I wrote:

Smarter Living: What to do when you're on a reply-all chain
It would be a one-word story
Nothing

I meant it entirely as a gag for the chat room only. But Jonah Bromwich, a reporter on our team, egged me on: "DO THAT PLEASE." I thought about it longer, and was excited -- and a little surprised -- when my editor, Yonette Joseph, signed off on the idea.



Posted by at September 5, 2016 6:28 PM

  

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