The craft of reporting will become faster and more iterative. Rumor, speculation and incomplete information will be published far more readily, on the assumption that errors can be corrected. Stories will, in essence, be built in real time and in full public view. Reporters will file copy directly to the Web, often without a review by an editor. Readers will be a central part of the process, correcting and comment upon articles as they are taking shape. Reporting will become, in effect, a community process.
This new model will be very disruptive and very controversial. The idea that a news organization would publish information it did not know to be true flies in the face of all of our expectations. The concept of actively involving readers – who have no formal relationship with the news organization – in the reporting process will be too much for some editors to accept. There will be hand-wringing over fears of libel suits and other litigation. It is going to be an unholy brawl. (Bold in Doug’s quote)
I agree it’s going to be an unholy brawl, and I expect that even my saying that I agree with much of Gillian’s prediction will bring some howls of derision, even from journalists who run online shops.
The part I disagree with is that we will knowingly publish stuff that is not true. I can’t foresee that ever being an acceptable journalistic norm. Because we put stuff online sooner and quicker and possibly with less professional editorial oversight might mean more errors get published, but I doubt even that is true. There is an advantage of online over print on errors, though, and it’s important to remember: Online we find out about our errors sooner (from readers), correct them quicker, and they are potentially less permanent. That said, I think there will be both societal pressure and professional pressure to be even more careful about what we publish. When your readers become your editors, and they have blogs, too, the last thing you want to do is destroy your credibility by being consistently wrong. In the future, a writer’s byline, i.e. his reputation, is going to be even more important than it is today.
BTW:Â I don’t like the idea of publishing more rumor and speculation any more than you do, but I do suspect that will happen.Â But I also believe there will be more transparency about what a reporter knows and doesn’t know, and a honesty about asking for help on confirmation or denial.