One of my old editors kept banging on about the 3Cs – credibility, credibility, credibility.

If there was one basic mistake in a front-page exclusive splash then that story was ruined in his eyes.

His attitude irritated the hell out of me when I was a reporter because I felt he couldn’t see the bigger picture – namely, it was a great story.

When I moved on to the newsdesk I understood why he was so angry – fielding calls all day from readers upset by a spelling mistake, bad grammar, or problems with the word puzzles (the biggest crime) is no fun, especially when you’re trying to get the next day’s paper out.

In their eyes, we had lost credibility. That was the biggest problem we faced.

Blogs are an extension to the newspaper, no matter what the philosophy behind them and no matter who is writing individual posts. They reflect directly on the newspaper, both the original posts themselves and the comments.

Whether comments are good, bad, abusive, puerile, informative, more eloquent than the original post, or simply someone having a bit of a laugh, we are still reading what is in written under the banner of that particular title.

Is it possible for guest bloggers or staff bloggers to claim: “I’m not speaking for the newspaper…”?

I realise it is written from a personal point of view, but surely everything written in under the name of a newspaper (in the paper and online) is done in the name of the that title - unless there is a whacking great disclaimer.

The traditional Letters to the Editor that feature in newspapers might be someone else’s point of view, but they are edited and subbed to make sure they meet the standards in the rest of the paper. The blogs should no different.

So the issue is not ad revenue, the number of comments a post receives or the amount of web traffic it generates.

Surely the crucial point is how are these blogs in general - particular posts, individual comments and the overall feel of them – are impacting on the credibility of that newspaper?

To me, that is the most important question. And it is one that can be asked of most media organisations with blogs.

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4 responses »

  1. bounder says:

    The Birmingham Post are doing something very brave and forward thinking in my opinion, although the success or failure isn’t mine to judge.

    Blogs in most newspapers are really treated as columns, the Guardian’s CiF is still commissioned and edited very much as standard newspaper practice for example, — the Post is allowing invited journalists and others free reign, acting as a blogging platform more than a publisher.

    I agree with the concept that whatever is ‘printed’ under an organisation’s banner reflects on them in all respects, quality of thought, writing, journalism and of course spelling.

    There is a trade off, speed (and originality of thought, I think) against cost and ‘quality’ (more typos slipping though etc), whether it’s worth it is the Editor’s call in the end.

  2. Ursula says:

    Yes, Paul, of course blogs reflect on the newspaper which houses them; a little like one’s friends reflect on oneself.

    I am the last to spring to the defence of any blog – private or otherwise – but it is a new medium. One which has yet to be weaned, potty trained, and then be taught how to flush the loo.

    As to comments: Do they ever reflect anything other than the readers’ own largesse or limitations? Not really; I love to hear myself spouting off.

    If there is comfort to be had, Paul – though I dare say this will send you hopping mad – one thing I have learnt over the last few months is that few people actually READ and digest other people’s comments; most just vent their spleen and delight in rereading their own contribution; such are our vanities (see above).

    U

  3. Paul Groves says:

    bounder/Ursula: Thanks to you both. I understand and agree with everything you both say.

    My concern is whether newspapers have the luxury of time. They are invariably playing catch-up as regards technology and how to use it. Whereas teething problems are to be expected and tolerated, the readers still should come first.

    I get the impression with some newspapers that it is all about impressing other competitors than readers.

  4. I think many readers have changed how they see the published word, definitely more so than newspapers.

    Many readers are used to leaving comments on sites, maybe have their own blogs, often post messages on Facebook and add comments to pics on Flickr.

    I think readers are more aware of the fluid, evolving nature of publishing online, some of course won’t be, but the balance will naturally change.

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