An article on Stuff with an AAP byline (but not writer’s name) reveals a little about the state of news reporting today. The original article was published in Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age yesterday – and has an author (Nicole Low). That brings us to the first finding:
- Big media companies share content amongst their publications, and I am a fan. In these tough times it’s a great way to ensure we keep getting a mix of high quality articles. Fairfax, for example, has a business news team based in a smart new facility in Auckland that provides content to all Fairfax media in New Zealand. This means they can afford to hire and give time to specialist journalists, which the provincial newspapers would struggle to do based on current economics. Those local publications still need local journalists though – as local news is the critical part of the newspaper content.
However the article was also in the rival News.com website, back on November 5th, and I thus am sure in many other newspapers:
- All media companies share articles. This has been going on for decades with NZPA, AAP and others writing and sharing articles to everyone. It’s a great model for general news – only one needs to be there, and we just want the facts.
- In the past it was a good model as newspapers were separated by distance, but with online content available to all it’s increasingly hard to differentiate between news sources. In this case I was quite disappointed in the quality of the article, and it caused me to reassess downwards slightly my impressions of the quality of the content on The Age and Stuff – while it’s just the sort of thing I’d expect from News.co.au.
On Stuff there was no byline:
A week before my departure for the United States, I went into a total meltdown.
There was in The Age and News.com, and it seems to be a pretty basic rule that articles published in the first person should have the author’s name. But the biggest issue for me is that none of the articles had any way to give feedback either through comments or (and this should always be the case) through an email address for the writer. Which leads us to:
- Reader interaction is the standard these days, and publishers need to provide the basic tools.
Another quote gives two more findings:
TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration, otherwise known as customs officers in Australia.
Ignoring the incorrect information on the TSA for a moment, let’s focus on the perils of copying content from another place. In this case New Zealand readers are given an Australian reference. Which leads us to:
- The need for sub editing still remains. Articles should be selected and relevant for their intended audience and should be written and edited with their point of reference in mind.
and now let’s look at the writer’s lack of understanding of what exactly the TSA is. It’s reflected also in this quote from further in the article:
…Wherever you land first in the US, that’s where you clear Customs. It doesn’t matter how bad the TSA in Dulles is. If you land in San Francisco, you clear immigration there. At Dulles, all you need to do is collect your bags.
The TSA (Transportation Security Agency) is nothing to do with US Customs and Immigration. The TSA are the people that are responsible for security, mainly on the way into the airport, while the Customs and Immigration folks are responsible for letting you and your things into the country. And thus:
- The need for sub editing still remains. Yes – let’s reiterate the point. Articles that have been published before should not be blithely republished, but still need to have the at least a quick check to ensure they are up to scratch.
As news content increasingly becomes a commodity publishers need to ensure that they differentiate themselves so that they can capture a distinct readership and advertising revenue stream. That means, for a start, clearly defining and agreeing on who they are publishing for, how they are doing so, what content they are providing and how they interact with their readers. There is plenty of work to do in the industry, and answers to these questions will change rapidly over the next months and years.