Thursday, May 15, 2014

Should Think Tank Reports Be Shorter?

Besides Think Tank Watch, how many of you have actually read a think tank report from front to back?  And I'm not just talking about the 500-pager, I'm talking about a 10- or 20-page report?

Yesterday, Think Tank Watch wrote a piece titled "Does Anyone Actually Read Think Tank Reports."  And the seeming lack of readership of many reports floating around Washington and elsewhere got me thinking, should think tank reports be shorter?

If so, perhaps the wire services can provide a model.  Here is more on the Associated Press's new guidelines for article length:
The world’s largest independent news organization, the Associated Press...has told its journalists to cut the fat — and keep their stories between 300 and 500 words.
Exceptions: AP has told its reporters that the top one or two stories in each state may run between 500 and 700 words, and the top global stories of the day may be a practically Faulknerian 700-plus words. Reporters in AP’s newly expanded investigative unit will be permitted to bust the limits.
AP’s wire-service rival, Reuters, instructed its reporters to keep stories under 500 words.

To be sure, think tankers are not necessarily journalists, and there are many short reports that think tank scholars write.  Moreover, there are many different formats that think tanks are using, such as blog posts and short policy briefs.

But most of the ideas in reports that Think Tank Watch reviews can be said with much more brevity.