The next mindshift change journalists need to go through is that they
no longer have a finished product. The issue is never complete. The
feature is never done. The news is always evolving. And this is hard for us old-school hacks.
If you were to ask a group of people what words they associate with
journalism, I’d lay odds that “deadline” would be in there somewhere.
But we’re moving into a post-deadline age, when the publishing time is
now, and then as soon as you have new information. Or a new
conversation. Or a new contribution.
The web is providing us with the tools to move away from static
“finished” story pages to ones that evolve and change with the news. And
we need to work out how to adapt our journalistic processes with it.
This has all sorts of implications. How do we set targets when stories are never done? How do we structure our sites? Do site structures even matter as links, widgets and embedded content break down magazine-like containers? What’s the role of a news editor in an age when they no longer have the power to pick the top story?
Ironically, this “live story” idea is something that the best journalists have always
done well – followed up on stories, and follow them as they grow – and
the poorer ones have always struggled with. But now it’s different. It’s going to happen more transparently, and in public. The journalist may lead (or aggregate) the research and discussion, but others will contribute, too.
And there’s no choice but to get a
grip on it now, because if you can’t keep the discussion around key
issues live. then your traffic, and your livelihood will head elsewhere.