Despite being in PhDland, I still call myself a journalist (even though much of my part-time job requires me to be a churnalist). I love the news and I love being a part of the profession that reports the news. Sure, I criticise it, but my criticism is about pushing it to be better because I believe it has to be better if it’s going to be relevant. (Having said that, I don’t know how many journalists are even aware of News with Nipples or give a shit about what I have to say. So, you know, there’s a very big chance that I’m just preaching to the converted here.)
We need journalists to give us stuff to blog about, but there’s one thing in particular I think journalists can learn from bloggers: respect for comments.
Most journos I know don’t read the comments left by readers on their stories. Sometimes they have a quick look, but usually just to roll their eyes at comments they consider to be stupid and/or ill-informed. Well, you know what? If your readers are ill-informed, whose fault is that?
Obviously journalists can’t respond to every comment – many stories get hundreds – but the same gaps in knowledge seem to pop up in each story. For example, comments saying asylum seekers are illegal queue jumpers and economic refugees. This is the perfect opportunity to respond with facts. Actually, that’s probably a bad example because this info should be included in the story in the first place. But you get the idea.
News sites should set a couple of ground rules that pop up when a reader starts to leave a comment, such as insisting that all stats must be backed up by a hyperlink to the relevant info on a reputable website. No link and the comment won’t be published.
Monitoring and responding to comments also allows the journo to update their story with additional info – making it more relevant to their audience and a better story. If it carries your name, don’t you want it to be good? Sure, journos are busy and this takes time, but you know what? Many journos have busy periods and then cruisey periods throughout the day. And I think giving more information to your readers when they display a need for it can only improve the quality of comments on news websites because, fucking hell, they’re generally appalling.