Journalistic pace, and why quick and slow aren’t mutually exclusive

Three recent thingies about journalistic pace, and the ‘difference’ between bloggers and the MSM:

1) This piece in the New York Times, Get the Tech Scuttlebutt! (It Might Even Be True.), in which the blogger’s obsession with getting in first, regardless of validity, is damned with faint praise. One quote has been knocked around ever since, courtesy of the irrepressible Michael Arrington:

“Getting it right is expensive,” … “Getting it first is cheap.”

2) This video by The Daily Show, including another memorable line, when the reporter Jason Jones stumps an NYT editor:

“Give me one thing in there [a print copy of the NYT] that happened today?”

3) Arrington goes on On the Media to defend himself against the NYT piece, citing his early breaking of the Google aquisition of YouTube

“I got a tip from – I mean, The New York Times would horrified by this – but I got a tip from an entrepreneur who said that he’d heard [LAUGHS] that Google was buying YouTube….so I wrote a story…four days later the acquisition was announced at that price.”

In short: 1) Blogs are too hasty and often prioritise speed over quality. 2) Newspapers are too slow, and are damned by their fundamental, day-after format. 3) Bloggers are often on the money before anyone else.

Reductive thinking

But the NYT piece and the Daily Show stitch-up are too black and white. The two methods – knee-jerk blogging and diligent, fact-checked newspaper articles- needn’t be mutually exclusive, and aren’t. There are numerous examples, every day, of both happening within the same news organisation, such as the New York Times.

The best of both worlds

When something happens that is newsworthy, a dual process should take place. The first process deals with the immidiacy and can only exist online… report it, twitterfall it, stream the live video and images, live-blog it. Be open about what you know, and what you can’t confirm. Be beta about it.

Simultanously, get started on the second process: definitive accounts, and working out what it all means. This should take as long as it takes- to source, to interview, to research, and to fact-check. And, while there’s still a demand for print (which there is, and will be for decades yet), save this stuff for the next day’s print edition. Each medium does what is expected of it, and sticks to its strengths. There is no reason why they shouldn’t coexist in the same house, for now.

(***A side note: Arrington’s early breaking of the Google-YouTube story provides an interesting retrospective comparison for the relationship between Robert Peston’s blogs and the run on Northern Rock. Both were criticised for making the news rather than reporting it. Another pertinant issue, as this tweet from Labour MP Tom Watson to Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger demonstrates, but we’ll save that for another time.***)

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