Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The miners' story as a study in journalism

There could be an entire journalism course taught about tonight. While I believe the fault lies with the mining company for not speaking up that it could not confirm the miners were alive, the era of 24 hour news is hurting journalism. It is all about NEWS NOW. Get it fast, let the level of correctness come later. What they should strive for is getting the facts first and the story later. But that's not going to happen.

Cable television news is doing a great deal of the damage. The Internet is another big part of the problem. Newspapers have to follow. By the time reports of survivors came over the AP wire, it was close to late deadlines for many eastern time zone papers. I am afraid that those who run newspapers will see this as a further confirmation of their view that due to their deadlines, newspapers cannot cover national news.

Because they are in print and tangible, newspapers will look the worst. TV stations can backtrack. Web sites can refresh. Newspapers have what is printed. While some eastern time zone papers may have been able to replate for their final editions (the New York Post and the Daily News are two I've seen), the majority probably could not. There are an awful lot of "Dewey Defeats Truman" style front page headlines on doorsteps today. Fortunately, there's always tomorrow, and they'll tell the story better than TV or the Internet can. However, at the same time, many readers will look at their paper, look at CNN and wonder why they need to read the paper. There's a lot of blame tonight, the mining company and media alike, for the mess up in how the information was released. But either way, we (newspapers) look like dumbasses. It's another bad day for newspapers.

(At least the Globe said "reportedly." It was the best they could do at the time.)


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