Monday, February 23, 2004

Blogging Blues for the Copy Desk?
Tom Mangan, features editor at the San Jose Mercury News, hits the nail in his discussion of the copydesk's future in the world of blogging (Leonard Witt's pjnet.org interview). If you buy his theory that "eventually almost all news will be posted blog-style," the implications for the copy desk are tremendous. "Every time big stories break, blogs pop up out of nowhere," Mangan writes in this IM interview. Why? Because, he says, news organizations are slow to react when people go searching for breaking news on the Net. "What the bloggers are exposing is the fact that despite all our training and professionalism, a lot of time amateurs can best us at our own game."

With assigning editors already bypassing the copy desk and posting to the Web in some cases, the challenge for copy editors, according to Mangan, is to not cede the online real estate, "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."

All well and good, but it rests on Mangan's assessment that bloggers' typos, errors, etc. cost them credibility and that, "Our readers will forgive us for being five minutes late, but right, far sooner than they will forgive us for being first, but wrong." But I wonder if this old-fashioned ethic still holds in cyberspace. Some research suggests that people are more tolerant of errors on the Web -- and during breaking news cycles -- figuring it can be updated quickly. I've had some editors tell me they buy into that, too -- put it out there, then correct it. Hmmm ...

See more of Mangan's other thoughts on his Prints the Chaff blog.

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