In order to constantly keep their web pages updated, American newspapers often turn to stories their journalists think are not important, Nikki Usher, of George Washington University, writes. The finding is based on 122 interviews with journalists working for four metropolitan US newsrooms.
The journalists describe a constant need to “feed the beast” – to publish new content online. This urge is fueled by perpetual fear of losing audience to competitors, and further exacerbated by the use of real-time visitor metrics.
The interviewees do not think too highly of the metrics, claiming their meaning is ambiguous and forecasting a topic’s success unreliable. Thus, the journalists choose metrics that most flatter their stories – and end up pursuing “stories online that do not accord with their own standards of good journalism”, Usher writes.
At the heart of these practices is the journalists’ attempt at maintaining authority, the author suggests. The journalists’ authority is under “under assault”, and the newsrooms’ feverish quest to establish themselves through speed can be seen a way to win back at least some professional clout.
The article “Breaking news production processes in US metropolitan newspapers” was published by the journal Journalism. It is available online (abstract free).
Picture: type by MjZ Photography, licence CC BY-NC 2.0.