Web-first publishing isn’t necessarily more error prone

Doug Fisher quotes from an essay by Paul Gillen (server down on that link at the time of posting), and there’s a part I want to pull out:

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:  I don’t like the idea of publishing more rumor and speculation any more than you do, but I do suspect that will happen.  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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged by . Bookmark the permalink.

4 thoughts on “Web-first publishing isn’t necessarily more error prone

  1. This is a fallacy perpetuated by those in newspapers with no understanding of the web. The BBC News website has been publishing first on the web for going on 10 years now and has built up a reputation as one of the best news resources online. As a former news editor there, I can tell you that we applied exactly the same editorial standards as you would in print or broadcast. The key issue is to have a system of editorial checks in place before material gets published to the web. The BBC News website has done such an editorial process in place and still manages to be fast and accurate.

  2. More newspapers are getting into the web-first, post quickly and throughout the day mode, but the next step is to go back to the original story, listen to what people are saying about it, and make the story better. Newspapers are mostly still in the take your best shot at the story and then it’s on to the next story mode. It’s important to let the conversation make the reporting better.

  3. Good, I’m glad accuracy is still valued. It’s what seperates us from the “animals.”

    Standards will be our salavation for what we do best, report NEWS. Someone has to and we’re it.

    – Temple

Leave a Reply