Reporting: Being First vs Being Right

Posted by andreaitis on February 24, 2009

I posted on the / Techcrunch face-off yesterday, but after reading Journalism, or irresponsible rumour-mongering? I’m thinking a bit more about it.  And the thought I’m thinking is this: editors.  What we’re seeing is a mad rush — to post, to critique, to judge.  We now live in a world of immediate immediacy, and many have lost track of the pause button in the frantic race to be first. Editors provided that pause, the questioning and probing that often made our stories better: clear, crisp, tight, and more often than not more accurate.

Now, though, the fact that anyone can publish anything at any time means editors are not actually needed. Desired by some, maybe, but not necessary for the act of publishing.  Is that a blessing or a curse? In the mashup of Journalism and Darwinism, I’ll say what every local TV anchor has said at least once in a classic on-air moment: only time will tell.

TechCrunch, one of the Web’s top tech blogs, sparked a firestorm of criticism with a recent story about — the popular music-sharing network that CBS acquired last year — by reporting that the service had turned over a pile of user information to the Recording Industry Association of America. The story turned out not to be true, and co-founder Richard Jones responded with a blistering denial, in which he said that TechCrunch was “full of shit.” Plenty of people on Twitter and elsewhere have been using the piece as a stick with which to beat TechCrunch, arguing that the report was irresponsible and the blog has lost all (or most) of its credibility as a result, etc.

Journalism, or irresponsible rumour-mongering?


5 Responses to “Reporting: Being First vs Being Right”

  1. Susan Toepfer said

    When I was hired years ago at the New York Daily News, my editor, the late, much-missed Jack Sanders, told me: “Write what you want. Be as daring as you like. I’ll be your net.” That promise gave me such freedom–and comfort.
    A good editor is there to sharpen your instincts, force you to look harder–and to protect you from yourself.
    Nets, filters, whip-crackers–whatever you want to call them, we need editors still!
    Thanks for posting!

  2. Marc Herman said

    I agree with Susan. Writers need editors. But it seems like the old wire standards work just fine while allowing for speed: two named sources.

  3. Susan, you said it: A good editor is a good safety net. A bad editor is a disaster, and there are plenty of bad editors out there. But, ah, the freedom of risk-taking when there’s a good editor to listen, to read closely and well, to ask the right questions, to push and prod and safeguard. There’s nothing like it.

  4. Karen Dukess said

    What’s really unfortunate is that we have rid ourselves not only of good editors but also of good copy editors, who annoy the hell out of newspaper reporters but save their asses so often! So to make this really local — will True/Slant have anyone correcting obvious typos, spelling errors, bad grammar on our posts? Should we alert each other? Immediacy is great but sloppiness won’t win any of us any fans…

  5. Marc Herman said

    That’s a really interesting idea: the live in-house copy edit. I for one would love to have copy edits or for that matter any edits that don’t belong in a public forum sent to my email.

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