During the recent UK elections, The Guardian took to using a rolling-blog style of article to keep readers up-to-date with all the latest news around the campaign: in the frantic days during which the Tory/Lib Dem coalition came into being, they felt (I assume) that this was the best way for them to present this information.
Following yesterday’s shootings in Cumbria they again used this format but, after a number of readers questioned its appropriateness, they closed the comments. However, I personally feel that not only should they have closed the comments, but that they shouldn’t be using this particular format for stories of this type at all.
One of the great successes of The Guardian’s digital journalism is its over-by-over coverage of cricket, in which constant updates allow cricket fans trapped at their desks to get a feel for the game, as well as to interact with it by emailing comments to the journalist covering the match. They’ve successfully rolled this format out to football as well, and it works very well indeed.
However, a shooting is not the same as a football or cricket match. Nor, I would suggest, are things like oil leaks, or pretty much any current affairs issue. In one of the comments on the original shooting post it was suggested that the format meant The Guardian was turning into Fox News, to which Janine Gibson responded:
There are very good technical reasons to cover a fast unfolding story in this way, which are nothing to do with turning into Fox News but are to do with speed of publishing and being able to correct things quickly.
I would have to respectfully disagree.
I’m well aware of the argument, promoted by the likes of Jeff Jarvis and many of my former colleagues at RBI, that the modern journalist needs to be more like an aggregator, bringing together the best content on the web and adding insight and analysis on top. However I don’t really see what these type of posts add to the links: it doesn’t take much to just post links and I fear that in doing this The Guardian are actually chipping away at their very own raison d’etre.
Why not, instead, write an article that brings together all of the salient points, links out to other sources that can add extra depth (something The Guardian are absolutely terrible at) and then update it as more information comes in? Yes, it would probably take more time and effort, but it would also, I feel, provide a better service to readers and also be a more dignified approach.
Because no matter what Janine Gibson says, having the word LIVE at the end of a headline brings nothing more to mind than Fox News & The Day Today.
Newspapers image by ShironekoEuro on flickr