Mark Potts addresses a familiar demon on the Recovering Journalist
“I hear more and more people grumbling that some newspaper stories seem so…out of date. As more of us read the news online in real time, it seems odd to find the same stories in the printed paper the next day, as if the coverage was a day late. I find myself reading printed papers and thinking, “sheesh, I knew about that two days ago.” Even the latest editions run several hours behind the news when they finally land on readers’ doorsteps, and if a story happens overnight but doesn’t appear until the following day’s paper, it can be more than 24 hours old before it appears in print. No wonder papers seem out of date.
“This wasn’t an issue before the Web, before cable news, when newspapers were the primary source of news and information; news didn’t really happen until you read it in print. No more. We know what’s going on in the world shortly after it happens, with sound, video and multiple versions. By comparison, newspaper coverage of the same story often seems to be stale.
“There’s no easy solution to this, but newspaper editors and reporters need to be aware of it and shape their coverage accordingly: fewer “for the record” stories and more context, explanation and analysis. Move the story forward from what everybody already knows. Sports sections have been doing this for years; because of TV, most readers know the score of the previous night’s games, so sports stories have become more analytical. This practice needs to spread into the rest of the newspaper. If the paper isn’t absolutely the first place readers are seeing a story, make sure that what they’re seeing looks fresh and new. Otherwise, you’re yesterday’s news.”