Posts Tagged ‘ editing ’

Daniel Okrent

Readers of this blog may or may not recall my promise a while back to write about Daniel Okrent‘s visit to Stony Brook. (What? You haven’t been wondering about this? I can tell you it has been on my mind. The blog is a relentless taskmaster!) Okrent, the founder of New England Monthly, a longtime honcho at Time Inc., inventor of Rotisserie League Baseball and the first public editor at The New York Times, hired in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, had a lot to tell our students. Herewith, some high points of his visit, which included lunch with faculty, a talk to a journalism history class and a half-hour discussion with graduating seniors.

  • On anonymous sources: “It’s the single largest complaint that readers have,” Okrent said, harking back to his two years as the Times ombudsman. “They just don’t believe it” when reporters attribute quotes to that journalistic Zelig, Mr. or Ms. Knowledgeable Source. Readers think “the reporter just made it up.” He gently mocked the verbal contortions The Times inserts to defend its use of K.S.: “who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the matter” and  similar pretzel logic. The correct approach to protecting a source’s identity, Okrent said, should not be to tell the reader why the source wanted to remain anonymous but to explain why the reporter and editor “allowed this person to remain anonymous.” Ah, transparency: “to whom this newspaper granted anonymity to protect the reporter’s access …” Okrent also noted the English model, in which the reporter is assumed to have vetted thoroughly all the information he or she puts in print. “The byline stands in for anonymous attribution,” he said. “The authority of the institution” is put on the line. While this model is more in the nature of how news magazines or newspaper analysis pieces operate in the United States, he said, it would be a radical change for daily newspaper stories. Finally, Okrent said, there is the implied contract a reporter makes with a source when promising anonymity. Continue reading

Curation is the new editing

I’ve been planning to discuss the idea of digital news “curation” with the students in my Journalism 24/7 class. This blog post by the ever-insightful Ken Doctor is just what I need to kick-start the conversation.

Ken writes:

“The idea of the FWIX’s and Outside.ins: provide a round-up of the best local news, by aggregating local news sources, big-time and small, blog, story and broadcast, professional and user-gen, applying some hierarchy of quality to it. Both efforts race for the same audiences and related advertising as the original content-creators, AOL’s newly expanding Patch and Examiner.com. In addition to those of course, the number of hyperlocal efforts increases by the day (and some of them are being rounded up by local dailies, witness the Seattle Times aggregation, for instance).”

Later in the post, he notes:

“The new-fangled word for it is curation, rounding up lots of content, providing some hierarchy of value. Of course, it’s just good editing, bolstered by intelligent technology, and a growing flexibility to accept and work with a wider world of voices, styles and views. … Importantly, it also asserts that readers are smart: they can tell the difference between a New York Times (or Sarasota Herald) byline and that of a community contributor. That assertion is a Pro-Am gamble for the Times and all proud brands, but it’s one that should be made — and backed up with clear, prominent and never-ending disclosure.” (emphasis added)

I’ve quoted at such length from Ken’s post because, as we teach our students, you quote what you couldn’t say better yourself. Ken captures the key points that ally this new style of editing, the curation function, with solid journalistic practices. “Clear, prominent and never-ending disclosure” prevents the stupid mistakes that have felled reporters and bloggers in several recent, highly publicized incidents. Disclosure also protects news organizations that practice digital curation from problems erupting from the stories the curators link to.

Disclosure helps readers increase their news literacy.

I’m convinced that curation holds great promise for hard-pressed newsrooms that have closed bureaus and slashed reporting staffs. As Mike Masnick recently pointed out on techdirt, curation could free reporters from re-reporting run-of-the-mill stories and allow them to pursue folos or fresh angles or different stories. I’m not saying that re-reporting stories broken elsewhere is a worthless exercise; re-reporting can certainly correct or clarify flaws in the original piece. And assignment editors will have to make tough choices when they could link to another news outlet’s (or a reliable blogger’s) take on a mayoral press conference or a journo scrum on the courthouse steps instead of tying up one of their own for a day.

But tough times mean tough choices.

Beyond its necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention appeal, curation allows a news organization to expand the perspectives it offers its readers. It gives editors the power to guide readers who want to explore a topic or issue. A trusted news brand that curates successfully will keep curious readers from moving off its site to hunt around on Google and Wikipedia. Curation allows journalists to harness the power and multiplicity of the Web, adding breadth and depth. A reader’s good experience with an editor’s curation should deepen her trust in the site where she started her journey.

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