The 5th part of the results of my survey of blogging journalists looks at how blogging has affected what happens after news is ‘published/broadcast’.
In the post-publication or post-broadcast phase of journalism, blogging has introduced a more iterative and ongoing format. Some phrase this in terms of old media paradigms – the items have “more legs” – while others identify how the previous process of “moving on” to the next big story and forgetting about the old one no longer applies so strongly:
“Much less file-and-forget” (Respondent 116, UK, newspapers)
“After the story goes up, instead of moving onto the next idea I’ll spend time answering reader questions and comments, because now it’s not just an anonymous ‘letter to the editor’, they get to speak directly to me.” (Respondent 26, Australia, newspapers)
The ability to enter into correspondence with users, to fix errors and post updates were frequently identified as changing journalistic work, turning on its head Lowrey’s sugestion that bloggers “often emphasise immediacy and opinion at the expense of accuracy” (2006) and that journalism would protect itself by focusing on editing; responses suggest that, conversely, journalists are relying on commenters to contribute to the editing process.
The lack of print or broadcast deadlines means journalists could, and did, add or correct information that wasn’t available or was incorrect when going to press or air, while the permanence of the web meant stories were always ‘live’:
“Where once the story had a fairly short shelf life – unless you were willing to dig around in the archives – stories are now readily available regardless of whether they were written today, yesterday or last year. The audience remains able to comment on the content, and regularly provides information which updates it. The reporter then has the opportunity to revisit the subject, creating a great ‘off diary’ print story (loved by news editors everywhere), crediting the information to the online contact, therefore cross promoting platforms, sparking more online conversation, generating more comment, updates and on and on and on…” (Respondent 126, UK, newspapers)
“Well, you never finish, do you? You write something that may or may not spark a conversation and you’ve got to be ready for that conversation even if it happens months later. Besides, I find that more and more of what we do online is writing parts of the picture, not the whole and unvarnished truth. Often we’ll do a quick news story, then one reaction, then two others etc. and link it all together – it’s a process and sometimes you find yourself writing for debate, for discussion, for max distribution rather than the equivalent of copies sold. Traffic is cool and important, but debate and distribution is another part of the picture. And of course I might blog, twitter or bookmark the stuff I write in order to increase distribution” (Respondent 147, Norway, freelance)
This importance of distribution is an emerging but particularly important change. While the print and broadcast news industries have long-established distribution infrastructures and conventions, online news does not: it might be argued that “Everyone is a paperboy/girl now” (Bradshaw, 2008).
Supporting this, journalists spoke of forwarding links to bloggers, posting updates on microblogging/texting service Twitter, and syndication through RSS, while for others the blog itself was seen as a distribution tool for stories that appeared in the main news website, print or broadcast edition.
But this is a two-way process, and the most common theme mentioned by respondents with regard to post-publication was the rise of:
“Feedback, quick, straight, unforgiving. Miss a story or it’s real meanings and you’re screwed, bloggers won’t forgive you. Blogs are the watchdogs of traditional media.” (Respondent 14, Romania, TV)
Unlike ‘letters to the editor’, the real-time and more intimate feedback of blog comments has a real effect on the ongoing story. One respondent spoke of changing lines, stories and sometimes trashing complete stories due to comments. For some this represents unnecessary extra work, with the quality and relevance of comments varying enormously. But for many sifting through comments has led to new stories, angles and, particularly, follow ups.
Has blogging affected your job post-publication/broadcast? Let me know in the comments.