I’ve written about editing before, in terms of design, importance, and my advanced editing class. But I’d like to dig back down through some of my notes on diversity, ageism, sexism, bias, ethics, taste etc.
One of the first things that we discussed was verifying stories.
An editor hears about a great story for the next days’ paper. There is only one source for the story and no names, no way to double-check the facts. But oh, god, it’s a good story. And there’s no real reason for your source to lie to you, is there?
But man, does your paper look dumb when readers start calling in. My view on the issue:
There is a risk to be taken if the story is important enough. Otherwise, sit on it.
One way to handle this might be to take advantage of the casual atmosphere of the Internet. Maybe you paper has a blog or a forum. Post your unverified story there, and let the community help you verify or deny it. Or make a space especially for rumors.
Next up: hyper local journalism. This is especially topical with the recent breakdown of Backfence.
One of the things that seems to be left out of journalism classes is basic business sense. While it is important to learn as many different ways to tell stories as possible, the trend of this transition to the Internet suggests that journalists also need to know how to monetize their stories, perhaps how to survive as a freelancer.
Hyper local news sites are breaking down the barrier between “journalist” and “reader”, but dealing with the same problems as every other news site: monetization, advertising, ethics and quality.
The best advice to take from the hyper local trend is “Think like a user, not a publisher.” This is something that must be considered at every stage: from building the site to writing articles, to allowing users to post comments, articles and pictures.
Tomorrow: Stories that don’t get told, journalism and math.
Classes in Review Series