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But the question appears to find fault with a normal, measured reaction human beings typically take when encountering change. As newsrooms allowed their staffs to have access to the Internet, there was the usual curiosity — kind of like a dog carefully, even suspiciously sniffing over a new animal that’s been brought into the home for the first time.
When newspapers started putting up their own websites, there was all kinds of angst about what stories should go online and when. There was a fear that simply putting everything on the website right away would be giving the stories and pictures away for free and take a toll on our print circulation. Papers experimented with, and gave up on, the idea of trying to use paywalls to get online readers to pay for access to our stories. Websites became showcases for more unusual content — video, for example, which could not be printed.
Then there came nudges to get more dynamic stories and content onto the Web as soon as it was ready, Over time, this became a Web-first initiative — to publish everything on the website as soon as it was written and vetted, even if it had not been in the paper yet. Many failed to see the reason for this — many still fail to see it — and that created its own backlash of suspicion, I suppose, related to this new technology and the Web-first initiative.
That romantic notion is raised from time to time, certainly. The conversation, however, always ends along the lines of, “but I’d hate to give up …” the spell check, or perhaps the ease of copying and pasting paragraphs or sentences to move them around in a story as opposed to rewriting the whole thing from the start.
Simply put, technology is a tool(s). In this case, the tools are being used to gather, interpret and disseminate information. That requires communication, understanding, gathering, reacting, compiling and putting it out there in a format for readers.
The process may look different but really has not changed. Still, you must understand how to use the tools or you are lost. Period.
If there has been a loss in quality, chalk that up to the decimated workforce. Copy editors are far less valued today. Publishers don’t seem to think they’re essential anymore — I mean, no one cares about all the errors out there on websites, right?
And yes, there are huge wrinkles to work around in terms of ethics and quality. The industry has lost a lot of experienced journalists in recent years and already is paying a huge price for that. I like to think the valuation once put on ethics and quality will be restored in time.
I worry, however, after 14 months without work, will the industry ever truly will recover from its own lack of foresight over nearly the past two decades?
I hope my worry about the future is unfounded. In the meantime, I'm plugging away. I blog, I use social media and work part-time as an online reporter for one site and an online copy editor for others. I am seeking out new training in the technology of websites.
I'm not particularly bitter, really, but I am very sad. There are so many of us who have been sidelined, those who remain are saddled with so much more work and under much greater expectations, still others are subjected to far less pay. While all of us are feeling the pain these days, my greater worry is what will happen to what attracted me to this industry to begin with? The idea of shedding light on truth in dark places remains a beacon I admire, but its light is dim. Where is our truth at the moment, and besides us, does anyone care?
Where will the light bearers be if the industry fails, even for a short while?