General Media / hope for the future / innovation

Necessary but not sufficient: Journalism on the web should be “more”

The journalism is what mattersMy post last week about digital and print bylines (The Journalism is what matters: Get beyond the primacy of the print byline) generated quite a bit of conversation on the CMA Listserv and my Facebook page.

This is good. I desire conversation and debate about these types of ideas, because it is only through such conversation and discussion that we arrive at better solutions, it’s part of the nature of progress.

As such, there are several thoughts I want to follow up on, including one particular paragraph in my post:

If anything, print – with its rigid publication schedule and “yesterday’s news” distribution model – should be valued *less* than the digital byline, which can be immediate, richly supported with extra materials, updated continuously, read around the world, spread virally, and searchable from anywhere.

Some thought that I was denigrating print bylines, when I had just said that the medium didn’t matter. That’s not what I meant, and I apologize for my poor wording.

I was trying to illustrate that if one were to attempt to argue byline supremacy based solely on the medium of delivery, print would probably lose.

The overarching point – that digital bylines are valued less than print – was confirmed by everyone who commented here, on the listserv, or on Facebook. Why that is so is much more nuanced than the narrow point that my blog post focused on. And my encouragement was that – as advisers and instructors – we should do what we can to elevate the digital byline to the level of the print byline.

So I am going to try to break my thoughts up into a number of different posts based upon the general idea of “Mindset.”

The first thing I want to establish is the boundaries of what I’m talking about when I say “Digital Byline” vs. “Print Byline.”

Most journalists know what I mean when I say “print byline.” It’s an article that appears in a newspaper or magazine that is printed and distributed in a “traditional” method. There may be a photo accompanying the story, or a graphic, but the story is essentially told through the words. A similar definition would work for a “package” broadcast on television or radio. For simplicity, I’m going to use the print paradigm throughout these posts.

But when I mention a “Digital Byline,” it’s murkier. My definition of a digital byline is most simply expressed in the term “More.” I’ve written about this idea before. A digital story includes the same things as a print story – a narrative, excellent reporting and writing that explains clearly and concisely. But taking a story that would fit in print and copy/pasting it onto a web page doesn’t make it a digital story.

A digital story will include additional “assets,” like hyperlinks to web sites for further explanation, definitions of difficult words, embedded source documents or interview footage, etc.

I often mention that one of the advantages of online journalism is the “infinite” amount of space. You can add to a story online with material that wouldn’t fit in the final print version.

However, if the only reason an entire story appears on the web but not in print is because you didn’t have space for it in a print edition, then it’s understandable that people are upset and feel less enthused about their bylines online. Especially if you’re just shoveling a story to the web with no additional features that take advantage of the medium.

You’re saying to them: “We’ll use your story, but it’s not worth taking up space in this product. We’ll put it over here, since we have unlimited space there.”