The world of journalism is cutthroat and merciless, that fact is news to no one. Despite being in the most competitive news country of them all (for better or worse), British paper “The Guardian” has the rest of the news world holding its breath: it is now tweeting its ongoing stories.
Yes, you read it correctly: the Guardian newsdesk has launched a tweet feed specifically to let readers in on what stories are currently being worked on.
In the land of phone taps and devious tricks, all in the name of the almighty scoop, what can push an organization to even consider such a solution? (No, high fevers and dementia have nothing to do with it.) The paper says it wished to engage readers and, to some extent, get them involved in the process. Readers can even suggest stories that might have normally gone unnoticed by journalists. Fear not, purists, tweets are not tomorrow’s sources. These would-be stories still have to be put through to the journalistic grinder, but could (if they survive the process) be published.
“…this hybrid form of crowdsourcing is exactly why social networking (done right) works […]The key? Use it but don’t be ruled by it.”
The experiment has, in the month since it began, proven effective at getting a feel for stories that might have been pushed to the side, despite being at the top of readers’ concerns. For example, the UK government’s health reforms were much higher on the minds of people than anticipated and the Guardian’s coverage was just not meeting their need for information. People said so and the paper dug deeper into the story.
So, though there was a bit of attempted scoop sniffing on the part of competitors, the paper claims that has now been eclipsed by reader response. Of course, one can assume the juiciest tidbits are still very much “hush-hush”: that type of risk management is only to be expected at a time when the print world is in such a delicate state.
But I for one applaud the sheer cheek of putting forward the newslist: I think it’s very much in the spirit of today’s social networking approach. Firstly, it says “yes other papers may see what we are working on, but by the time they see it, we’re already ahead of the game”. Secondly, this hybrid form of crowdsourcing is exactly why social networking (done right) works: as in “real-life” you ask people for an opinion, they respond, you filter answers and then make a decision. The difference here is that you have a bigger pool of answers. For people making a living off of “ reporting things/events happens to other people”, asking others seems logical. The key? Use it but don’t be ruled by it.
In any case, opting for a unique, if risky, approach can’t hurt.
It seems that, so far, being open was the right thing to do. The update article in the paper opens with this –almost– positive line: “Well, the sky didn't fall in.”
And that’s good news to tweet about.