Thursday, 16 May 2013

Why Facts Don't Have Time for Traditional Print

I am the Warden!!

In my previous life, I worked in print media, an industry that has been struggling to sustain itself in the face of growing technology. While I'm of the belief that traditional print will always exist to one degree or another, it's very hard to make my case when the industry itself is constantly shooting itself in the foot. Having worked on the inside, I've seen the panicked reaction of employers and managers determined that if they simply hold on for a while until this "trend" blows over and it's the wrong reaction.

However, that's not the only issue anymore. On Monday, there was massive panic and public reaction to the report that a 10-year old girl was almost abducted in broad daylight in the middle of town. A description was announced on the radio and local police were scouring the area looking for this individual. On Tuesday, it was announced the suspect was not real and the girl made it up to cover for the fact that it was bullies at school beating her up.

I'd like to show you Thursday's edition of the local paper.

This was published and distributed to the community on Thursday. Thursday! That means this story was written on Monday or Tuesday morning and submitted to pre-press for insertion in the next edition. It means the only way to have anything local published in the paper is for it to be written 60-72 hours before press because it has to go to another location for printing, distribution, and release to the general public. This story is so remarkably out of date, it's not even worth running anymore.

Now I'd like to point out something else that makes my point even more disturbing. See if you can find the story on the front page of the same edition. 

Let me give you a clue - it's not there. Working off theoretical reality for a moment, let's assume the decision has been made to run with the story as it was written on page 2. At the time of assembly, this "newspaper" didn't think to put the story of a child abductor on the front page, giving priority to the fact that no one knows who has the right-of-way on an old country road, a tax hike, and a picture of an elderly woman being served tea by a firefighter for Mother's Day brunch. No mention on the cover page about a possible pervert. 

So what's the point running an out-of-date story involving a serious matter of concern to parents in this community? Even if the paper realizes the girl's story was bogus and there was no suspect on the loose, why run it at all? It's amazingly sloppy and eliminates any argument you can make about the reasons behind running an out-of-date story because, if the story had been true, it would remain sitting on page 2. 

The entire purpose behind this rant is beyond lazy or inappropriate handling of the news in traditional print media because it's ramping up the hysteria that's plagued this town. The false suspect was identified as having a skull tattoo on the back of his left hand and resulted in many people in town with skull tattoos receiving a call from the cops working their leads. One of those people included a good friend of ours. The fact that people jumped to conclusions and called 911 on anyone partially matching the description is really not a surprise and it's the consequence of the instant media frenzy we're going through at the moment. It's not about accuracy, it's about having a scoop before everyone else. Without another source - an accurate source - to turn to for the facts as they're available, what should we bother reading the newspaper? 

And to close, the Renfrew Mercury is the recipient of numerous awards honouring local newspapers across Ontario and Canada. In other words, this paper is considered the best of what's left. 

Goodbye, print media. Maybe it was for the best. 

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