If there’s any good news for print media in the face of the growing online challenge, it could be that the print paper has become less error-prone.
A colleague and I were discussing how there seems to be fewer corrections being printed on our newspaper recently, and we both agreed that that could very well be the result of online media.
Think about it…in the 24/7 world online, we are constantly adding to and updating news. A breaking story that hits the web is quickly written and edited before posting. Updates are continually filed and errors that are found are corrected immediately. By the time that story is in the newspaper, it has been not only been re-written and added to many times, but it has also been viewed by readers who may have questions of their own, which are fed back to the reporter/editor for scrutiny.
In a sense, we are “wiki-ing” our news before it winds up in print.
Is that a bad thing? Not really. Giving our readers credit to spot errors and alert us not only gives transparency, but provides a great sense of interactive “community.” Will they go away if they find an error? I believe they will stay with us if we acknowledge what they find and correct it. By doing so, we’ve made our readers “stakeholders” in our news operation. And as we build community online, we are creating a more factually-correct print product.
We can even take that one step further by making our readers “reporters” as well. We recently had a case at my paper where a local man was arrested for taking “upskirt” pictures at a community fair. The story was posted with a mug shot, and within hours some readers noticed the suspect looked like a board member for a major nonprofit foundation. The story comments even provided a link to the foundation’s staff page. After picking up on that, our reporters were able to verify that he was the same person and eventually led to a scoop that appeared in the print edition the next day.
As a result, what started as a routine cop blotter story online turned into a pretty big news story by the time the papers hit the newsstand.
So if there’s one thing online has done to help print, it’s cutting down on those nasty corrections so that valuable news space can be used for other things…and wiki-ing news is not really a bad thing in times of fewer resources.
Michael Kinsley had the right idea many years ago when he tried to wiki editorials for the L.A. Times …he just started with the wrong section.