I had a chat this week with a colleague I used to work with in Texas. We were discussing the differences in online reporting and print reporting, and I insisted that while they are two different products - and that requires different handling - some things never change.
The Internet has been a wonderful world to explore for newspapers - or at least for those who can embrace what the Internet brings to the table instead of blaming their woes on it.
For the Macon County Times, the web has produced for us a wide range of new readers and many new distribution methods that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Likewise, we've been given many new and exciting ways to interact with readers, and that is excellent.
Your Macon County Times is no longer a weekly newspaper. We are a multi-media news organization that works around the clock. We provide you news and information in print and online, in photograph and in video.
But at the same time, it is important some things don't change. The web has opened up a world of weirdness that is sometimes difficult to understand, and it is infused with opinions that are thinly veiled as "reporting," and much of the reporting is based on vague sources.
Now, we're not perfect by a long shot. I can admit that, but generally speaking, this is what we try to adhere to in our reporting:
This is not every policy we try to follow and there are other points in there to be sure, but these three go a long ways toward creating more credible content and reducing issues related to libel.
Verification for ourselves is a big part of being a journalist, and these three little tips help avoid 99 percent of nasty problems that may arise. And yes, it may delay the reporting of a story just a little while but you can be assured that when it appears in the Macon County Times, in print or online, great pains have been taken to ensure our reporters are giving you accurate information that fully attributed.
The web changes a lot of things, but the efforts to verify and attribute information should not be one of the things that change, for that is what makes the difference between journalism and the garbage that infuses the web.