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What Do We Want From Newspapers and Journalists?

There’s an interesting interview at the New York Times between Public Editor Liz Spayd and Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Most of it is pretty tame and logical, but a couple of answers stood out. For example, when questions about new changes coming to the NYT, Baquet said:

Trying to edit The Times the way we edited it in a purely print era is unreasonable. The layers of editing, the number of people who touch a story. The fact is that we now write so much more. Right now, as we talk, there’s a hearing on Russian hacking. I’ve been in meetings all day, but we’ve probably written 10 posts. All of those posts, and the large print stories done at the end of the day, cannot be edited in the same way. The challenge is how to still be fast and give people a story in a form that is accurate.

But do we want and need 10 posts on the Russian hacking hearing? Is that why people visit a newspaper, or would they actually be better served by longer, more thorough articles which go through an editing process closer to print?

In an era when anyone can be tweeting fiction and presenting it as news within seconds, or live streaming on Facebook, how often do we have time to visit a newspaper website and actually ingest all the coverage of a particular event if it’s spread across so many places?

New York Times Building by Torrenegra on Flickr

It’s a paradox which every publication struggles with. And that challenge comes up just a few questions later, when asked about a way in which The New York Times has failed its readers, and Baquet picks out the use of social media.

I think sometimes reporters and editors go over the line. Or are a little ham-handed in their language in a way they wouldn’t be in the pages of The Times. And I think people think that’s easy to police. It’s not. I want people to interact with readers. I want reporters and editors interacting with the wider world. But I think we sometimes cross the line, and we need to figure out a way to not do that.

It’s almost as if the goal will be to have news coverage which is incredibly fast, efficient and streamlines editing and fact checking as much as possible. But the fastest, most efficient ways for staff to communicate needs to be edited and fact checked to prevent them from doing something wrong.

I’d propose a simpler solution.

Use social media and let staff get everything out as quickly as possible (within legal and grammatical rules, certainly), and use the website as the publication of record when I want 1 or 2 articles that give me a complete, thorough, and accurate report of what has happened in the world.

I’m not going to visit the NYT website 10 times in a day. But when I visit it once or twice (often as a result of seeing something recommended on social media), I want it to be worth the effort.

 

Image by Torrenegra on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


Also published on Medium.

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