Allow me to climb on my soapbox for a few moments as I talk about something near and dear to me: The future of news.
I majored in journalism in college — part of the last graduating class at University of Evansville to get a straight-up journalism degree. And I’ve worked in newspapers since graduating in 1994, as a police reporter and education reporter first, before moving into page layout/design.
The breaking news out of Massachusetts last night reminded me why I love working in the newspaper biz. There is a certain excitement to waiting for the latest version of a big story to cross, to seeing official confirmation of the rumors flying fast and furious on Twitter.
As I write this very early Friday, the Boston Globe was reporting one Marathon bombing was in custody with another on the loose in Watertown. When I left the office, the AP still hadn’t picked up on that story. Nor had CNN, which we had turned on in the newsroom.
A screen-grab from 1:35 p.m. Arizona time, as I was wrapping up my post:
Without a writethru from the AP, we were stuck reporting what they’d already confirmed — which is probably less than half the story that will emerge as more details are released.
Confirming the news takes time, my friends. Or at least it should.
The banner headline changed again after I snapped this screenshot. Now it says “One suspect dead, another at large.”
(Is it wrong that my first thought was, “If you kill the suspects, we’ll never know why they did it.”)
Just before I left work, a retweet showed up in my Twitter stream:
following #Watertown tonight, a significant transformation of news coverage. traditional news simply couldn’t keep up with twitter.
— Kevin Watson (@kevinwatson) April 19, 2013
You know what? Whoever Kevin Watson is, he’s right. Even I found myself turning to Twitter for quicker updates, compulsively reloading my page to see if I’d missed some new development.
There’s a danger in that, though: Too-quick reporting is bound to get more things wrong, more often. (Heck — just look at CNN’s recanted report from earlier in the week that a bombing suspect was in custody.)
And if everyone’s going off half-cocked, with half-truths and misinformation, it could worsen an already tense situation.
I’m reminded of a night a few years ago, when those miners were stuck underground (I think in West Virginia). It was a Sunday night, I think … or maybe a Monday … and the first reports we got were that most everyone had gotten out alive. I laid out the front page that night, and waited until the last minute, then placed a story to that effect, with some kind of headline like “Miracle in the mine: XX survive W. Va. cave-in.”
By the time I drove home — and I live just across the street, less than 5 minutes away — our pressman was calling me to come back because the news had changed. Now there were no survivors (or very few). I had to re-do the front page to avoid putting misinformation out there for everyone to see. Can you imagine the pain it would have caused if people — especially relatives of the deceased miners — had to see a falsely jubilant report trumpeted on front pages around the country?
Some stories — many of them, I dare say, — are way too complex to report in 140-character sentences and phrases.
Those time-honored, trusted news sources from TV networks and wire services like the Associated Press may be slower than Twitter, but by the time they report something, it’s more likely to be correct. Any news organization worth its salt will have confirmed something — possibly through multiple sources — before they make it public.
That’s why the thought of losing our gatekeepers makes me lose sleep — Well, that and the fact that if newspapers go the way of the dodo, I’m out of a job.
Okay — I’m off my soapbox. On to other, much less serious considerations.
— I’m officially OLD. I picked up my second pair of glasses before work this afternoon. The good news? I can read the screen on my phone without holding the phone at arm’s length. I can see the computer screen better, too. The bad news? Walking in them — which I’m prone to do while at the office — is kind of tricky. Got dizzy once as I stood up to retrieve a page proof from the printer.
— My roommate was home from work today, and she got what looked like a delicious lunch from Panda Express: The Samurai Surf N Turf.
I’ve only been to Panda Express once since it opened here in Flagstaff, but I’m thinking about following suit tomorrow. The website describes the Samurai Surf N Turf as “angus top sirloin steak combined with tender, marinated shrimp wok-seared together with sweet red bell pepper, crunchy string beans, crisp diced potatoes and a new zesty Asian sauce.”
Sounds yummy. Better yet, all ingredients except the zesty sauce appear to be Simply Filling … sirloin is the leanest cut of steak, right?
— I wrote the first words of the week on my current manuscript. It wasn’t much, but it was 262 words I didn’t have before Thursday. I write romantic comedy, and I tend to not want to try to be funny when terrorists attack. (After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it took me months to start writing again.)
But, as my writing buddies pointed out, this is when we need to laugh most. I need to remember that.
— Not that I’m complaining, but the capri pants that were a staple of last summer’s wardrobe are way, WAY too big. Thank goodness they have a drawstring, because I wouldn’t be able to wear them without it.
— As I said on Instagram, I couldn’t stay away from Dunkin’ Donuts. (Getting an email from them this morning didn’t help any, I’m sure.) I told myself I was going in for just a coffee, after I stopped to pick up my glasses.
Ah, the lies we tell ourselves! I ended up buying two Munchkins, too. They were delicious … totally worth 4 of my weekly 49.
I think they tasted better because I’m not buying them every other day or every few days. These were my first in almost two weeks. OMG — how did I ever survive before DD opened in Flagstaff?
— I’m still loving Simply Filling. The plan forces me to focus more on real foods. Apparently, that was just what I needed to jump-start my excitement for WW again.
I do wonder, however: WW says you can slip back and forth from SF to Tracking at any time. You can do one for a few days, then switch to the other. But if you don’t switch at the beginning of a week, how do the extra 49 Points come into play? Surely they can’t re-set every time you go from one method to the other — if you switched every day, you’d never run out of FPs. I kind of think that’d defeat the purpose of WW …
— I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed in time to work out again Thursday morning. The key, I think, is to NOT grab my phone first thing when I wake up. When I do that, I end up wasting too much time online before I’ve moved a muscle.
Now I have to work out every day for the rest of the week to earn my workout point for Bootcamp this week. Gulp …