Powerball: Is It Possible To Write a Lotto Story That Doesn’t Suck?


Full disclosure: when we set about writing this post, we were going to open with a snarky (read: stale) complaint about how the lottery subgenre of reportage just isn’t creative enough.

In fact, our lede was going to be something like: “There must be a whole chapter on lotto coverage in “Journalism 101” textbooks, because it seems like the same handful of stories get reported over and over and over again.” (Italics for even more snark, of course.)

But then we started to think: Lottos have been around a really fucking long time. In fact, they date back to Julius Caesar.

So, is it possible that these same narratives get recycled because there really might not be that much else to say in most circumstances?

Scrolling through recent Google news headlines on the topic, it seems like most lotto stories break down into the following categories: “Lotteries Are Impossible To Win,” “Lotteries With Big Jackpots Draw Lots of People,” “Lotteries Explained by Psychologists,” “Lottery Winners Wind Up Miserable,” “Lottery Winners Wind Up Happily Eccentric,” Look At All The Stuff Lottery Winners Can Buy.” There’s also the kind we’re guilty of indulging in: “Lottery Coverage Sucks.”

While it’s always possible to find that one dude who has a crazy lotto narrative — maybe a guy was saved from a burning orphanage by a kindly wolf which also happened to have a winning ticket in his fangs — it’s also very likely such a story won’t accompany every drawing.

Of course, there’s the argument to be made that most stories, not just journalistic ones, follow the same structure. But that’s a topic we can talk about for a very long time.

So I guess our point is this… No, you probably won’t be surprised by most lotto stories’ format. You’re probably going to know how most of them end just by reading the beginning. However, that doesn’t mean they’re all bad, because the merit of an individual piece — however predictable — depends a lot upon its execution.

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