10.24.2007

Standards... Something to remember in online journalism:

OshNW Executive Editor Stew Rieckman, Executive Editor in their online forum:

If you read the print version of the Northwestern and compare it with the Web you will notice that most of the strange, bizarre and titillating stories from Sheboygan and Fond du Lac never make into print. The reason is that the print version of the Northwestern has different standards than the Web version. So we're not selling any extra papers with the Web only content.

While I understand his point, I think this is a real problem with journalism today. The focus on the 'titillation' over substance. We understand this from the blogs and the tabloids, but you would hope that the print mainstream would hold their standards no matter the forum.

Even more in light of the anonymous quotes that the Northwestern pull from their website and publish in the print edition, as pointed out in this recent letter to the editor:

Letters: Online comments not fit to print in newspaper

I would like to question the purpose of, and helpfulness of, publishing on the "Today's Conversation" page snippets of on-line chat, especially as the chat is anonymous. Is it because you think that the published chat is somehow representative of Oshkosh, and therefore newsworthy?
...
How does the publishing of anonymous, apparently uninformed (no substantiating evidence is offered by the writers) opinions contribute to the betterment of our city? By all means continue the online chats -- but let's leave it there, just as we leave the bar banter at the bar. At least there we know who's talking.

How can the OshNW claim that they have "different standards" between the print and online aspects, when they use content across both platforms?

I would hope the OshNW would hold the same (high) standards for their brand no matter what the delivery method.

1 comment:

jody said...

With all of the ridiculous things I have said about Stew R. I really do think the answer to your question is related to a genuine perception that SR seems to have - that web content is inherently and irrevocably different by its very nature. If so, I am sure he is not alone in this. Many people feel that the lack of "controls" on web content will neccessarily taint ALL of the content to some degree, that it is just the nature of the beast to bring things spiralling downward.

I think what will actually happen (or HAS happened) is that the web reader will learn very quickly how to "smell" content and have an instinct for where it falls on the Bogus-Legit Continuum. It seems that the content providers often underestimate readers. For example, the average TV viewer can easily discern the intent behind
"issues ads". I think it is difficult to really prove if these ads are nearly as effective as the people who create them THINK they are. It is not hard to imagine that the only people who are fooled by the ads are the producers of the ads, in the sense tha they hope the "average viewer" will be sucked in. The actual result may be that issues ads are creating a more suspicious and more discerning public than ever before.A more psychologically literate public. And that is probably true on the web as well.

So it (the NW web/print discrepancy) may boil down to the love/hate, fascination/repulsion that traditional-minded people have with web content and results in a "throw some raw meat to the animals" kind of decision by some of the world's "deciders". In Stew's case, I base my conclusions on his own words in subtle and not so subtle remarks he has made over the years, admittedly not recent remarks, and people's opinions develop over time so I cannot KNOW, but feel it is a reasonable hypothesis all the same.

Interestingly Stew presented some kind of paper or something to the larger Gannett org, in which he was actually quite positive about "embracing" the net rather than news media being threatened by it, as they certainly were at the time. (this was when the press/blog wars were more intense nationally a few years ago now)
Still, Reality and Theory are often uneasy partners, and "living it" must present a host of nasty dilemmas for newsguys.
Also there are the physical realities re: web readership involving increased eyestrain, reduced attetion-spans due to monitor radiance and all that. So intellectual content actually NEEDS to be tailored "downward" for those reasons. Not an excuse for the sensationalism that you question here in this post, but perhaps a factor in wider perceptions and decisions.

Well, that was me, being completely serious - sorry about that Jef. I am sure you are not the only one to have wondered about this web v. print difference and it is a good question. But that's my guess anyway about what may be transpiring in the head of the Reickman. I might also add that our local editor is not nearly so discussed or as colorful, true of most Eau Claire v. Oshkosh situations. So that's interesting too. Perhaps someday YOU can explain that to ME.