ACES seminar preview

February 22, 2004

Leonard Witt, a journalism educator at Kennesaw State University, wondered what I was talking about when I titled my ACES seminar “The Future Doesn’t Need Us: Weblogs and the End of Editing as We’ve Known It.” So he interviewed me via AIM and I gave him a quick rundown.

Witt runs a blog called PJNet Today for people interested in the concept of public journalism (which makes me wonder, what would private journalism be?)

Some of what I said about volunteer bloggers is apt to cause them to denounce me as a dinosaur wondering what to do about the furry little mammals that are all over the place lately. And I’d say to them: if you were the dinosaur, what would you be doing? One offending passage:

    Witt: Okay, so what advice do you have for bloggers? And then for news organizations and especially copy editors.

    Mangan: Bloggers need to understand that their typos, their misspellings, their errors in fact and judgment cost them in the eyes of readers, and if they insist on going it alone they have to be comfortable with a small audience of people who don’t hold their errors against them. For news orgs, though, we have to insist that ours is a collaborative business and that the extra few minutes we take to bring multiple perspectives on stories is time well spent. Our readers will forgive us for being five minutes late, but right, far sooner than they will forgive us for being first, but wrong.

This is basically my summation of why blogging matters to copy editors:

    Another reason why blogging seems like a threat to how we’ve always done things is that in some cases the blogging model is already happening in newsrooms: some editing is happening, but assigning editors are posting copy online and bypassing the copy desk completely. And corporate execs would love to be told, “look at blogs, they’re all unedited and people love them. Think how much more money we’d make if we weren’t paying all these editors.” We have to be zealous in insisting we are the guardians of the newspaper’s credibility, which is a kind of capital equipment we can’t afford to squander. If we tell ourselves that blogs and other online chores are somebody else’s job, that’s what they’ll become, but if all the news is online in the future, we won’t be part of it.

3 Responses to ACES seminar preview

  1. Terry Steichen on February 23, 2004 at 6:56 am

    The comments in your interview with Leonard Witt make good sense. I would add an additional thought.
    Part (perhaps the major part) of the blog appeal is that it is a style of writing/publishing that provides the reader with not just the facts surrounding some event, but a context as well. The reverse-chronological list of “articles” (many of various types, including reader commentary) often gives a better perspective than a single report on the same event.
    The major problem with this rigidly sequential approach, however, is that the latest entry may not be nearly as significant as an earlier one, in terms of the amount and importance of the information it contains. Moreover, there’s a related problem of relevance – some entries may be obviously trivial, but readers must stumble through them to find the “good stuff.”
    Another part of the blog appeal is that many blogs focus on a consistent, fairly narrow theme. People with an interest in that theme don’t have to sift and filter general news for the “nugget” of interesting information.
    The problem with this narrow focus is that the blog, absent the context of a larger publication, often covers developments in only a small part of the world around us. People who use such a blog for their news input miss a lot of stuff that provides serentipitous value.
    I think the blog format might be useful as a replacement for conventional newspaper columns and letters-to-the-editor. Maybe op-ed and (remotely) possibly editorial. But that’s about it, IMHO.
    Terry Steichen

  2. Leonard Witt on February 23, 2004 at 7:44 am

    Hi Tom:
    I know you were just being sarcastic, when you said: “public journalism (which makes me wonder, what would private journalism be?)”
    Nonetheless I feel the need to explain. Private journalism in the context of public journalism is that journalism which reports on the public, but doesn’t collaborate with the public. So it is kind of like a private club of professionals, who see the public as not quite capable enough to be part of the news producing mix. So, like it or not Tom, you are a public journalist. But let’s not let words get in the way of concepts here. I am favoring the phrase “participatory journalism.” Click on my name below to see more of what I am talking about.
    Any how, thanks for the great interview.

  3. Sheila Lennon on February 23, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Since editors like you and me and all those folks in the left column are blogging now, and we’re pretty good at details and don’t have to follow no “style” nohow, maybe those jobs will turn into these jobs.