Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Should blogs be edited?

Doug Fisher and I presented a session at the ACES conference on blogging.

The best discussion point that emerged is whether the blogs that are hosted on newspaper Web sites (for example, at the Ventura County Star, the Lawrence Journal World and the Dallas Morning News) should be edited.

I say they should be -- though not in the same way news articles are edited. I'd like to see editing for spelling, obvious grammatical errors (think verb agreement, not sequence of tenses), and fact checking.

What's less necessary, in my opinion, is the line editing -- work on organization, framing the question, etc. It seems as if this is usually handled by follow-up posts in the blog world, where you have 12 posts to get it right, maybe create a conversation, instead of just the one-and-done nature of news articles.

So why not just let the bloggers edit as they wish, as they would if they started a blog of their own? Because newspapers are offering these blogs under their banners -- as a way to lure readers and fill a perceived "voice" void. The blogs are hosted on news sites. They need not embarrass us or make us look like amateurs, or we risk alienating as many readers as we hope to gain in the endeavor.

And a couple of other thoughts, which I posted on a discussion at Testy Copy Editors:
Copy editors are *one* of the many institutional protections we have against scandal and inaccuracy. The problem here is that allowing completely unedited blogs to be hosted by a newspaper's Web site removes most of those safety nets.

The immediacy of blogs seems to be a big issue here, and one of the hardest to get around. Employing after-the-fact editing may be one solution; it's certainly better than nothing. But I've noticed that most of the blogs hosted by news sites aren't the 12-posts-a-day you'll-never-guess-what-just-happened types. Maybe waiting a half an hour to get some editing wouldn't be the end of the world?

And no matter how careful you are about who you invite to blog, mistakes will still be made. It happens to well-esteemed professional writers, too (think Mitch Albom).

There may be reasons to use less editing on paper-sponsored blogs than other copy on the Web, but these surely aren't them. ...

If we had unlimited resources, would we still be having this conversation? I bet we would hire the editors without question; it makes sense. All this talk of editing ruining blogs' "voice" seems contrived to me.
More reading:
> Standards [article at Testy Copy Editors by Mary Ellen Slayter]
> Standards comments [Testy Copy Editors]
> The Case Against Editors -- Why it still pays to not have one. [Mickey Kaus at Slate]
> News Leaders Debate: Building Audience with Blogs [Poynter]


At 8:11 AM, April 27, 2005, Blogger tom said...

Though in principle everything should be edited before the "post" button is clicked, the only reason why editing blogs now seems remotely thinkable is that there are so few of them in use by companies which employ editors.

Newspapers don't edit the online discussion boards they host, though they do moderate them.

If newspapers have hundreds of blogs in the future, it'll be somebody's job to sort through all the posts and send readers to the good ones. It'll involve less comma quibbles but a lot more editorial discretion, which could make our jobs a lot more interesting.

If we let ourselves do those jobs.


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