Today’s digital media a news cycle of infinite possibilities, updates

Apr 20 2012 - 6:07pm

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Drawing comparisons of news coverage in traditional media and digital media can be tricky business.

Even when the comparison involves the same news outlet.

Traditional media -- television, radio and print -- work under the constraints of space and time.

Digital media, which involve various platforms associated with the World Wide Web, do not. That's why digital media has been dubbed "infinite media."

News organizations like the Standard-Examiner have strategies that involve both forms. However, if you are a consumer of news in both traditional and digital media formats, it can be a lot like watching sausage being made.

With traditional media, there are established deadlines. Reporters gather news, then write stories leading up to this deadline before publication. The stories are edited to fit a specific space or broadcast time. The depth of the story is a result of how much information the reporter gathers before the deadline.

Gathering information can be the result of contacting sources, or trying to obtain documents, then waiting for return phone calls or sources to provide documents.

Before the Internet came along, editors might decide to hold a story a day or so to allow time for gathering more information that might make the story more balanced or fill in holes.

With digital media, there is intense competition to be first with a story. This means, in some cases, stories are published (posted) as soon as the basic information is available.

This is especially true with breaking news. As information is gathered throughout the day by a reporter or reporters, it is added to the story already posted in what we call "writethrus."

Sometimes additional information changes the direction, or lead, of the story.

In this case, a whole new story is published with a new headline. We then try to go back to the original story and link to the new story.

It's not that much different from how reporters develop stories for traditional media, but now consumers get to see the process firsthand, rather than only the final product.

This can be glaring when a developing story goes to print and additional information is added online after deadline. This may mean the story in the morning newspaper is an incomplete version of the one available at the same time online. This can be especially true when it comes to night meetings or coverage of election results.

We have different methods of dealing with this challenge. Sometimes we will have a reporter file a print version on deadline, especially if there is one topic from a meeting that allows the reporter to write a complete story. The reporter then can add information or write other stories dealing with different topics for online and the next day's print edition.

Last week, the Davis County Republican Convention went late into the night. In print Saturday, we had a news brief recapping some of the early results. A full story was posted online early Saturday morning. This story then didn't appear in print until the Sunday paper, 24 hours later.

Traditional media operates around news cycles, as stories are developed for specific deadlines. With infinite media, the news cycle is 24 hours and the deadline is now.

Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or ahowell@standard.net.

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