The continuous news desk

The New York Times is doing the expected thing – using its own site to congratulate itself. (Is it still “synergy” if the site of publication and the site that’s the subject are one and the same?) In an interview that cries out for editing, we learn a few things about

The interesting thing for The New York Times about a site like Amazon, I think, is that Amazon, although it’s ostensibly a retail site is really for many people an information site.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a central source for information about books other than Amazon and a central movie source other than the Internet Movie Database? It sometimes rankles to link to a commercial site. Where’s the Library of Congress when you need it?

(And it’s even worse than that. Amazon owns the Internet Movie Database!)

We have some reporters, when they get an exclusive, call us up right away, or they tell Continuous News Operations... [staffed] by about eight or nine people, one in Washington, and they put together breaking news stories just for us, and they either get the stories from reporters or they write them themselves, and that’s helped a lot. It’s not perfect. We’d still like a little better quality, a little faster production. But it’s improving.

Indeed, in a postdrudge era, there is but one cardinal rule for online newspapers: Publish immediately, but publish only what you can prove.

We’ve all read online news stories that effectively traffic in rumour. Just as there is a tendency in live TV to keep talking for minutes on end even when there is no new information, there is a reluctance online to publish three sentences if that’s everything that is presently known. It’s vaguely unseemly. “We’ve got to pad it out to at least three paragraphs,” they think.

Nope. The saving grace here is that you continuously update the story as new facts come in. Television prefers not to do this, since it requires uncomfortable switching between “regularly-scheduled programming” and “breaking news.” (Yet television has settled on the worst possible alternative – filling up dead air with speculative banter by reporters.) But we are not television. We’re better. (Aren’t we?)

Posted on 2001-01-28