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The Convoluted Life Cycle of a News Story 75

Posted by timothy
from the ok-let's-randomly-update-this-story dept.
ideonexus writes "Once upon a time, newspapers were considered the "first draft of history." Today, rather than the daily episodic updates of major news stories developing a narrative over time, we have a perpetual stream of factoids from which a story emerges. Lauren Rabaino of mediabistro details this new lifecycle of a newspaper story, from tweets to blog posts to an eventual print edition, and asks What are the best standards of practice? Should news sources provide a single web address with a stream of updates, post new blog entries that link to older ones, or should they adopt a Wiki approach to the news — revising a single story with a history of revisions available behind the scenes?"
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The Convoluted Life Cycle of a News Story

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  • by Dark$ide (732508) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:28PM (#38119074) Journal
    Here in the UK all the news comes from hacking cell phone voicemail systems.
    • by macwhizkid (864124) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:22PM (#38119396)

      Here in the US all our news comes from the UK from hacking cell phone voicemail systems.

      • Here in Israel all our news comes from tapping media in the US who get it from the UK from hacking cell phone voicemail systems.

        In the Middle East all the news comes from (mis)qouting news from Israel which comes from tapping media in the US who get it from the UK from hacking cell phone voicemail systems.

        Voicemail systems in the UK are full of news items left by relatives in the Middle East.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:47PM (#38120108)

      1) Pick unpopular issue.

      2) Ignore all facts on the issue.

      3) Tie unpopular issue to politician Murdoch does not like.

      4) ????.

      5) Profit.

      6) Complain that the politician is now suing you for Libel.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Hi, I work for a mid-size (~200 reporter) news agency. Let me tell you how it really works...

        1) Event happens
        2) Reporter writes article.
        3) Subject editor edits article for content correctness.
        4) Copy editor edits article for grammer and style, also writes headline.
        5) Article is published online and in print.

        For investigative reporting or huge stories, fact checking will generally happen at 3. For small stories and dailies, it will happen at 2 and 3 will review it with their domain expertise.

        Advertising does

        • 1) Event happens
          2) Reporter writes article.
          3) Subject editor edits article for content correctness.
          4) Copy editor edits article for grammer and style, also writes headline.
          5) Article is published online and in print.

          Note that nobody checks the spelling.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There should be different sites in different formats. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Different purposes could require different formats.

  • by ideonexus (1257332) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:33PM (#38119106) Homepage Journal

    I couldn't figure out a way to fit it into the summary, but I was bothered by the way Reuters recently handled their story claiming George Soros was funding Occupy Wall Street (OWS) [washingtonpost.com], first running a headline claiming a connection but with a story that offered very spurious evidence of monetary support for the movement, and then taking that story down under heavy criticism [nymag.com] from other news sources and reposting the exact same story with a headline absolving Soros [reuters.com] of any connection to OWS with a new link, while simultaneously killing the link to the old story without any explanation.

    It was extremely problematic for people debating online, as my conservative friends suddenly had their link go dead, while my liberal friends suddenly had the same story but with a headline supporting their position. It was the same exact story, but since nobody RTFAs, the headline was the most important piece of evidence in the debate.

    I post this example, not to dredge up some off-topic flamewar about OWS, but because it seems like a pretty clear cut case of how we don't want news agencies operating. I read a comment on Slashdot recently that the reason we aren't allowed to modify our comments is to prevent users from editing out things in order to accuse others of strawman attacks. If you screw up a fact, you post a correction. It seems News Organizations owe us the same courtesy.

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:40PM (#38119156)

      I think the lesson there is: don't spin the headline. Never stop happening, of course, but if we really wanted fair news sources they should make the headline as non-biased as possible. The exact same story with two different headlines can, in fact, be taken two different ways. In fact both may be valid interpretations of the evidence as presented in the story, but a headline will lead 99% of people to one conclusion over the other.

      Newspapers have known for years that you can put whatever the hell you want for a headline and people will believe it, even if the facts in the story don't support it. Hell, some news stories will directly contradict the headline... but they will do it towards the end. Most people don't read that far, so most readers end up believing whatever the headline says, no matter how stupid, sometimes even if they read the article itself. You could say that implies people are stupid, but I think it has more to do with the book-by-it's cover phenomenon. First impressions tend to carry through.

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:27PM (#38119414) Homepage Journal

      It was extremely problematic for people debating online...conservative friends...liberal friends.... It was the same exact story, but since nobody RTFAs, the headline was the most important piece of evidence in the debate.

      Oh, yeah, "debating" online. A "debate" implies that all parties have at least some background information and are capable of critical thinking and intelligent discussion.

      What you described in that case is just parroting. Like parrots, the two sides just repeat sound bites heard from people they happen to agree with. Liberals are all lazy homosexual communists, because Rush Limbaugh said so. Conservatives are dumb, cruel, racist Nazis because Keith Olbermann said so.

      Parrots are the cause of America's inability to fix its own problems, especially when turned loose at the ballot box.

    • This is just taking their typical lazy attitude to another level. Every article seems to be a contest of how much they can cut and paste from previous articles with as little new content as possible.
    • If you screw up a fact, you post a correction. It seems News Organizations owe us the same courtesy.

      They do. You usually find it, in the printed editions, on page 67B right next to the obituaries.

    • "I post this example, not to dredge up some off-topic flamewar about OWS ...

      You're on the wrong website bud ;-)

    • I read a comment on Slashdot recently that the reason we aren't allowed to modify our comments is to prevent users from editing out things in order to accuse others of strawman attacks.

      I have seen this happen on every single message board I've been a member of and is specifically the reason that I've disabled editing posts on any message board I have (and ever will) owned. I prefer receiving nasty messages that someone can't edit their posts rather than nasty messages about people changing their stories after receiving negative responses or whatever reason...

  • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:33PM (#38119112)
    How about actually reporting the truth instead of slanting it to the political leaning of your respective audience?
    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:42PM (#38119176)
      That sounds like something Hitler would say!
      • by mjwx (966435)

        That sounds like something Hitler would say!

        No it does not.

        Hitler would have sounded more Germanic.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How about actually reporting the truth instead of slanting it to the political leaning of your respective audience?

      Wouldn't work. There's no money in truth, but there's plenty in "truth".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have bad news for you: That's actually really physically impossible.

      First of all, since there is no "absolute truth". Terms, words, sentences and memes/concepts mean something slightly different for everyone of us. Which is based on our own experiences. For example, somebody living in any of the five towns called "Paris" in the US might think of his "Paris" first, before considering the one in France. And this is a mild example. Every story contains loads of such context-sensitive vague memes. And most of

    • Someone would have to be in charge of The Truth in such a way that we could all objectively discern whether or not a given news story conformed to it. Professional standards ought to control the amount of bias injected into a reporter's account but oddly enough it has turned out that various news organizations will only report stories that have the correct bias injected into them, so its as if the notion of professional standards has been corroded from the inside of the profession since people with the "wr
    • Actually, I would settle for news sources being honest about their bias. Especially since it is not possible to report a story without it being colored by the reporter's bias. Of course, I also wish that news sources would not leave out key facts in an attempt to make a story support a political position that it neither supports nor refutes (I remember one news story that was reported on network nightly news--don't remember which network--with one key fact left out so that it appeared to be a classic exampl
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      I'd settle for fact checking. Usually, a story comes from a quote, and the quote gets its own legs. It would be better to report what someone said, and follow it up with"... But we found..." Simple fact checking takes time, which is why they don't do it, they want to be first with the story.

      For example, the 53% who pay no* taxes, that was a big quote.

      I'd prefer a wiki style, with updated parts clear. White background for the initial story, darker backgrounds for later updates, something visual like that

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:35PM (#38119124)

    I thought it was all about complimentary copy advertorials? They actually still have reporters?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:47PM (#38119196) Journal
      Somebody has to spell-check and scrub for PR-flack fingerprints the press releases before they can be reformatted and sent to the printer...
    • by peragrin (659227)

      Of course they have reporters, who do you think searches the web for the game scores, and somebody has to go ask the tough questions regarding next weeks fashion show.

      seriously if newspaper would stop catering to their customers(advertisers) at the expense of their clients(readers), newspaper readership wouldn't be dropping. I can't tell you when the last time my local paper did actual investigative reporting.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:38PM (#38119136) Journal

    Depending on the circumstances, the press release might get written by a business trying to push their next product release or dis their competitor's new product, or it might get written by a government agency trying to increase its clout within the government or as part of a longer-running PR campaign.

    Then the press release is sent to the press, some of whom ignore it, some of whom mindlessly print it, and some of whom decide it's a good enough story for their market so they talk about it on radio or TV or give it print space.

    Then other commenters start giving it coverage, whether that's talk radio ranting about how bad or good it is or somebody submitting it to Slashdot or whatever.

    Then the tweets and the blogosphere get it. That doesn't mean they don't start stories on their own, but the people with interests in controlling the press or touting their products don't leave it to chance. (That's not even counting the ones where the tweets and blogosphere get started by astroturf, which is also pretty common today as an alternative business model to astroturfing the AP, Washington Post, or EE Times.)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @07:36PM (#38120054)

      From my experience of the media (working on government events), I was shocked at just quite how bad it is. A great many reporters really do not bother to check the facts of what it is that they're reporting on, and instead ask each other instead of going to the bloody event 200 metres away, which they have access to, and are meant to go to from the press area which they're already in.
      Myself and my coworkers had a good laugh at the press reports throughout the day, and those printed afterwards, comparing them to the events which we saw and experienced. It was after that, I started taking all news reports with a mine of salt.
      As for the press releases from different interests, they're even worse.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clearly, we need to crowdsource some disruptive innovation into the news media market. While we do have some convergence of traditional and social media, we also see the vertical and horizontal integration of the printed media becoming more apparent. The alignment of the interests of these groups will need to be achieved in order to leverage and proactively facilitate the advent of media in the New Economy. This goes beyond the reasonable return on investment expected by the established news media. A conver

  • xkcd (Score:4, Informative)

    by philj (13777) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:38PM (#38119140)
    Made me think of this xkcd http://www.xkcd.com/978/ [xkcd.com]
  • They should use a public git repository. They should also release everything under a dual Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License/GFDL. They can then support themselves by giving speeches and selling t-shirts.
  • How much information do we really need? How important is it that we get it instantaneously? I guess I would like to be informed of a natural disaster quickly, but do I really need to be informed two seconds after Obama farts?
  • Yo dog... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:45PM (#38119180) Journal
    I've heard that those crazy neckbeards over in comp-sci solved the problem of how to manage, timestamp, and attribute revisions to a complex file or group of files that can be expected to be revised over time according to new information, requirements, or refinements. And solved it bloody decades ago. Revision control, people, it isn't just for sourcecode.

    Combine that with some of the newer and more www/browser friendly automated merge-and-pretty-print stuff, it should be architecturally trivial to provide a stable URL for a story, a full revision history(including times and who made the revisions), along with related stories, the ability to track revision activity of specific comitters, etc, etc.

    I enjoy a good bit of handwaving about how to "best" express complex structures within the limitations of obsolete formats as much as the next guy, and quite possibly more; but it just seems so pointless in this case: There isn't any need to cram the entire sausage-factory of news production into a few square inches of ink-on-dead-tree, so lots of nuanced bloviation on how to do that is just a lot of fluff over a toy problem(nothing wrong with toy problems, as a hobby; but they are a distraction if you are supposed to actually be working...)

    If the process is complex, involves multiple inputs over time, from multiple people, then it is indeed impossible to cram without some loss of fidelity into a single static text lump. We could either wring our hands over what transform algorithm is most 'true', or we could just stop fucking around and use a format actually designed to capture something structured that way. This doesn't seem like a difficult decision.
    • by blerg (185696)

      You mean like a wiki?

      Yeah, we have those too. And they are being used to keep an encyclopaedia, if you will, of knowledge! How about that!

    • Google tried this already with Google Wave. Nobody wanted it.
      • I liked it but, I stopped using it for the same reason everyone else did: It was a wholly closed off system. The only people you could communicate with were ones on the service and why would people check another service when they already check SMS, email, voicemail, Facebook, blogs, etc.

  • by stating_the_obvious (1340413) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:49PM (#38119204)
    This is the same way in which news has always developed. The difference now is that all the rumors, facts, leads, and dead ends that a good reporter sifted through and tracked down is much more public. Now we get to see the making of the sausage because so many people are willing to post random noise and data, but most of us still want trusted reporters to help us analyze and make sense of a story. Every individual needs to pick their level of comfort and trust in their sources -- some will continue to trust the traditional institutions of journalism, and some will believe that 'Anonymous Coward' is a trustworthy and citable source.

    Same signal, more noise, and less ability of the average American to distinguish between the two.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:54PM (#38119240)

      update: Homeless man was not a veteran.

      update 2: Unconfirmed whether man was homeless or not.

      update 3: Actually the dog bit the man, not the other way around.

      update 4: The victim was a 9-year old boy, and the dog was a pit bull mix. Boy lived down the street.

      update 5: Owner of the pit bull failed to register dog as dangerous breed with authorities.

      update 6: The dog was a fox terrier, no special registration was required.

      update 7: Bite by dog not confirmed, but there was a lot of loud barking.

  • News Via Wiki? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cbs228 (596164) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @04:56PM (#38119250)

    I seem to recall another civilization where news stories were subject to constant, behind-the-scenes revisions. I read about it in a book. One must always take care to interpret the past correctly, through the darkly-tinted lenses of our current social and political mindset. After all, it would simply be unsettling if there were anything at all in our history that happened to be politically insensitive or inconvenient for our current religious, economic, or secular leadership. Simply revising or "reinterpreting" key facts and events go a long way towards removing all of that troubling cognitive dissonance; such dissonance could cause people to question the way things are right now. Sadly, I can't really remember any more details about this civilization, because my e-books retailer erased every copy [slashdot.org] of it.

    News via Wiki? I don't think so.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      That's pretty cool how in a post complaining about people revising history, you yourself re-wrote history to lie about what Amazon did.

      If the random chatterers on slashdot can't resist the urge to lie to make their story better, how on earth can we expect companies to do so when there's actual money on the line?

  • SlashDot? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Charliemopps (1157495)
    What do they call the part of the news story where the original, unfounded claim, appears on Slashdot 3 months after the internet has declared it dead an buried?
    • by ankhank (756164) *

      > What do they call ... where the original,
      > unfounded claim, appears ... 3 months
      > after the internet has declared it dead
      > and buried?

      Generically --> "rebunking"

    • by six025 (714064)

      What do they call the part of the news story where the original, unfounded claim, appears on Slashdot 3 months after the internet has declared it dead an buried?

      Typically referred to as a "dupe" ;-)

  • I think a lot of news outlets do themselves a disservice in their effort to push the latest news out the door by throwing together a couple sentences (or worse, tweets) and calling it a "story".

    At least when I read a news article, I'm looking for context (what's the backstory?), significance (what's the important new development?) and perspective (what do other people think?) There's a rush sometimes to gravitate to significance, minimize context, and forget about perspective altogether. I think that leads

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      I have seen this happen to my alma mater, Penn State recently. I'm fairly sure that almost everyone has heard of the sick fuck Sandusky and what he did to the kids. Within 1 day the public, and more seriously the press, were calling for heads to roll. Which they did a few days later. After 2 weeks all kinds of other information is coming out about the police, the DA, the governor, etc. But these new stories are not pushed because they don't have a big name attached to them.
      So it's not really that convo

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 20, 2011 @05:32PM (#38119438) Homepage Journal

    The best practice of a newspaper is for a reporter who understands the events to find the actual facts about the events, and tell them in a story that is accurate to those facts in terms the readers understand.

    No news is made this way. Which is why nobody treats the news as anything but propaganda, whether they like their propaganda or not. All we've got is infotainverts.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Sunday November 20, 2011 @06:00PM (#38119594) Journal

    1) Event happens
    2) Field reporter sends details to news office
    3) News office embellishes the story to add sensationalism, interest, and other compelling things
    4) Marketing office adds advertiser tie-ins and paid referral language
    5) Story is published
    6) ...
    7) Fact Checking

  • ...be the guy invited to the boldly-claimed energy revolution
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/10/28/030244/1-mw-cold-fusion-plant-supposedly-to-come-online [slashdot.org] ...actually attend
    http://www.cobraf.com/forum/immagini/thumbs/R_319825_1.jpg [cobraf.com] ...then don't report on it
    http://twitter.com/#!/petersvensson/status/131019897244368896 [twitter.com] ...tell people to 'stay tuned'
    http://twitter.com/#!/petersvensson/status/131754686226247681 [twitter.com] ...all while the conspiracy blogs suggest that you're probably being pressured from up on high

  • "Factoid" does not mean small piece of data.

    Humanoid: having appearance of a human but not being one
    Planetoid: non-stellar body which does not qualify as a planet
    Android: robot in the configuration of a human, but not being human
    Factoid: assertion that looks like a fact but is not so.

    • And Baby oil is made of babies

    • by identity0 (77976)

      Factoid: "Factoid" was a term invented by CNN to refer to random short facts that were displayed on the screen.

      In common usage, it refers to a short, factual phrase.

  • To me, the biggest problem is that most news outlets are "writing" news instead of "reporting" news. Today, it's all about spin and market share. OK, so this is certainly nothing new. Heck, the "Oh the humanity!" reporting at the Hindenburg disaster was probably nothing new at its time. Maybe I'm just Old School, but when I see a newscaster reading a story on the 11:00 news, I have an expectation that what he is saying is as factual as the reporters were able to determine, and that opinion and editorial are

  • What's a factoid? Follow-up question: how does it differ from a fact?
  • 1) Who actually owns the media: (Hint: About 6 companies in the USA. Not too many more worldwide): http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main [freepress.net] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownership [wikipedia.org]

    2) Who sits on their board of both these media companies and other major corporations: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2870 [fair.org]

    Bottom line: Every major media outlet is directly controlled by the people who own most of the wealth in America. Messages are strictly controlled. Real journalism has been ban

    • Exactly. Why? There is no money in the truth. The truth is often boring. But there will always be a market for skewing, spinning, damage control, damage infliction, and politics. It has never been about what is relevant to us, because nothing really is until it makes the news. The news defines its own relevance, and unfortunately it is on the terms of the buyers of the news, which is extremely detrimental to "real" reporting - which by the way is also a fairly abstract concept defined by "real reporters" wh

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