Don’t forget the basics!

 In my Do we “dumb down” the news for online journalism? post I told you I would get back to you about  the speed versus accuracy issue. Well, the timing could not be more perfect, as Queensland Online News Producer/Editor, Elaine Ford, spoke to the Online Journalism cohort in our last lecture about this very issue.

To re-cap, there in a great amount of pressure on journalists to be the fastest, the quickest, the first to upload their story to the web. However, it is still imperative to be accurate. Now that journalists are uploading stories from the scene, minutes after the event has occurred, from iPhones, iPads, tablets and whatever other weird and wonderful technological gadgets they have access to, I have to wonder: are journalists sacrificing quality for speed? 

I posed this question after my Online Journalism class had been put through a Live Blogging test, which (if you remember) I was not all too confident about. My class experienced a simulated version of the stress a journalist feels when faced with an unfolding event and the knowledge that, in the world of online journalism, every extra second you spend on your story could mean potential readers are being lost to competitors… and I felt A LOT of pressure.

As a result, I made a couple of spelling errors and typos (but overall, I was very happy with my mark – SUCCESS!). After the lecture with Elaine, however, I’ve realised that had I been an actual journalist, reporting an unfolding story, I would be in big trouble.

One of the very first points Elaine made in her lecture was that spelling and grammar mistakes are more important than ever before. Simple mistakes look amateur and suggest lazy reporting, and can damage the credibility of not only the mistaken journalist, but also their employee news organisation and the journalism profession as a whole. So, hypothetically, my couple of spelling mistakes could potentially have lost me my readership.

Elaine directed the class to the ABC Media Watch website, which reports on the various mistakes and discrepancies in Australian reporting. I have spent countless hours reading through articles on the website since the lecture, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Elaine also stressed the point that journalists need to be accountable to the public. In a recent episode of Media Watch, it was pointed out that The Sydney Morning Herald had removed a columnist pending an investigation on plagiarism, however readers were provided with no explanation. Editor in Chief of the Sydney Morning Herald Sean Aylmer merely said, “We are no longer using Dr. Ahmed as a columnist”.

 In my opinion, that’s not good enough. I suppose that that is not for me to say. However, considered in light of the fact that journalism is considered to be the ‘fourth estate’, Aylmer has not done much to instill confidence in the SMH readership that they strive to report accurately and fairly. 

Perhaps they need a lecture from Elaine Ford on the importance of accountability, too?

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