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Nieman: Would dedicated follow-up outlets make for better journalism?

August 3rd, 2010Posted by in Business, Journalism, Online Journalism

It’s an idea which has been circulating for some time now, but was raised again by Megan Garber on the Nieman Journalism Lab in light of the recent WikiLeaks leak – “what if we had an outlet dedicated to continuity journalism”.

Her idea seems to centre on both the issue of sustaining interest in stories, as well as the importance of journalists continuing to follow-up on topics long after a story is published.

While it may not always be practical in a busy newsroom, she suggests the creation of a separate organisation whose sole practice it is to follow-up on past news stories.

What if we had an outlet dedicated to reporting, aggregating, and analyzing stories that deserve our sustained attention — a team of reporters and researchers and analysts and engagement experts whose entire professional existence is focused on keeping those deserving stories alive in the world? Sure, you could say, bloggers both professional and amateur already do that kind of follow-up work; legacy news outlets themselves do, too. But: they don’t do it often enough, or systematically enough.

It is a debate which has drawn support from both sides – one of Garber’s commenters, Adam O’Kane, who runs the Late Press blog, has already announced he has secured the domain ‘followupstories.org’.

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick says he is “not convinced”. He says that not following through a on a story at a later date may actually be a sign of a good understanding of what makes news.

After all, there are plenty of news stories that live on for a while, if the “follow up” events are considered newsworthy. And certainly, on niche topics, there are plenty of dedicated folks who follow those stories all the time. So an organization that just does follow through doesn’t necessarily make sense, because the problem isn’t necessarily the lack of follow-up, but the lack of newsworthy information to come out of such follow-ups.

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