There has been talk across the Atlantic this week about making journalist’s primary source material and transcipts more readily available online.
Washington Post economic and domestic policy blogger Ezra Klein has called for transcipts to be used alongside traditional write ups, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has criticised the media for not making use of the huge amount of space available online to host source material.
Klein says: “It’s safer to have your full comments, and the questions that led to them, out in the open, rather than just the lines the author thought interesting enough to include in the article.”
I couldn’t disagree more.
The main point of a journalist is that you, as a consumer, don’t NEED to read through 10 pages before getting to the point.
It is a journalist’s responsibility to tell you the who, what, where, why, when and how in the first couple of paragraphs – not hidden within a 15 minute interview spiel.
Also, there may be the space there to host the material – but what about the audience to read it?
I have no idea who would read a transcript – which often (if you’ve had the pleasure of transcribing anything) doesn’t make sense, has people talking over each other and is full of pauses, ums, ahs and corrections.
So, what it would perhaps mean in reality, is that journalists would need to turn every last word of an interview into a feature, or at least write it up in a way that is easy to digest for the reader.
Of course, there may be some exceptions – you may get the odd interviewee who is full of top information, which they express in a way that is interesting and engaging.
But it’s highly unlikely that there are enough of them to enable publishing transcripts online to become the norm.
Also, what about the interviewees themselves?
They are trusting (sometimes naively it must be said) that the journalists can turn their rambles into something useful.
Many would cringe at the thought of their unpolished answers being bared for the whole world to see.
For some it’s been a long time coming but The Times has officially become the first national newspaper to charge for access to its website.
Users will pay £1 for a day’s access and £2 for a week’s subscription, starting in June – but is this a good or a bad move? Or is it simply the inevitable?
The BBC says that the move opens a new front in the battle for readership and will be watched closely by the industry.
And they’re right.
The move is risky, and many industry insiders think Murdoch is making a mistake. But the fact is that news is a commodity and newspapers and news outlets need to make money.
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work.
If people are being charged to access the site they’ll simply go elsewhere. Only die-hard Times readers will pay the fee – most will simply move to another site. After all, political stance aside, the day-to-day news is pretty much the same in every publication.
One of the reasons actual newspapers sales is declining is because it’s free to access it online, so the reaction will be ‘why pay?’ when I can still get news free from a hundred other sources?
However, that said, I do think that Murdoch has set a precedent and done something every other newspaper has been toying with for years. I’m sure other online broadsheets will eventually follow his lead – like they did when he converted the Times to ‘compact’ size.
But it’s risky being the first one.
What do you think?