Tomorrow's journalism – less fact checking?

Paul Gillin writes about “The coming collapse and rebirth of newspaper journalism”. He predicts that

In 10 years, probably a third of metropolitan daily print newspapers will be gone. Some will go entirely online, while others will merge with regional competitors.

The future will see a new kind of journalism with a different approach, he writes.

It will make a lot of traditionalists uncomfortable. It will force us to re-examine our assumptions about everything from readership to libel law. But it will ultimately be an evolution of the profession into something that is richer, more inclusive and much more dynamic than anything we have ever known.

One interesting point – I’m not sure I agree – that he makes is that even established media will check facts much less, assuming that the public will correct any mistakes.

Rumor, speculation and incomplete information will be published far more readily, on the assumption that errors can be corrected.

I’d be interested to hear others’ view on this. It pretty much contradicts what Tom Glocer had to say about the important of trust.

Update 2006-12-17:
Don’t miss Paul Gillin’s comments to this post.
Also, Swedish blogger Beta Alfa comments (my, somewhat free, translation):

I too find this interesting. The same reasoning can be found with Chris Anderson, pointing at a risk component of transparent media.
It doesn’t sound too strange since we often see people making corrections in the article’s comments field. And the articles are being updated. With a wiki-based thinking more responsibility might be turned over to the visitors.
On the other hand I don’t think you can attract a large audience if you keep on publishing shitty drafts – especially if they are downright erroneous.

Beta Alfa also points to the recent court case where Otto Sjöberg, editor-in-chief of Swedish tabloid Expressen, was recently convicted for publishing an untruthful story about actor Michael Persbrandt. He wonders who is to be held legally responsible under press law in a world where the reporter leans on the reader for fact-checking.

Also check the discussion in the comments of Beta Alfa’s post.


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1 Response

  1. Paul Gillin says:

    Hi, Lotta: Thanks for commenting upon my article. I actually did not go into much detail on the fact-checking prediction other than to point out that over a million blog entries are now posted every day, most with little or no fact-checking, and there has not been a single successful prosecution of a blogger for libel. I think that is quite remarkable under those circumstances. I also think it indicates a different level of tolerance for uncertainty and speculation in the blogosphere.

    I do believe there will continue to be trusted media online as there are today. However, there may be more tiers of trust. Take Wikipedia, for example. Contributors introduce errors into Wikipedia articles all the time, yet the site is widely regarded as a source of high-quality information. I think there’s a general understanding, though, that before you would quote facts on Wikipedia in a book or government document, you should double-check them. Readers adjust their expectations to the circumstances.

    Newspapers have been printing rumor and speculation by columnists for years. In fact, identifying something as a rumor buys a newspaper a certain level of protection against libel. Perhaps a new kind of online journalism will emerge in which “facts” are labeled according to their reliability and stories are reported iteratively over time. As long as the material is labeled appropriately, I don’t see any legal risk. Whether readers will trust or respect that approach to reporting is an open question.

    It’s obviously a very complex topic. I would like to hear what others think.

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