No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a huge push these days to make yourself relevant on the web. In fact, it can be argued that if you’re not relevant on the web, you’re not relevant at all.
The news industry is no different and as the executive producer of a half-hour political talk show for my university’s student television station, every week I am challenged to not only produce the show, but also produce content for the web that is relevant and interesting.
I definitely struggle with doing so.
I look at the web as secondary. I focus on getting everything done for the show itself first and then figure out the web stuff second. But, I need to stop doing that. The physical reach of our show can be maximized so much more on the web.
I need to learn how to think “web first.”
We learned about this “web first” movement in one of my classes. It is a fairly recent one. Many newspapers and other media outlets have developed a digitally focused strategy, in which getting content on their website is the first priority, followed by the traditional print version.
Interestingly enough, the web first philosophy has probably hurt many media outlets’ web presence more than it has helped. It has lead to mistakes. Journalists are rushing to get their content out their before their competition and in the process errors are inevitable. These errors can be minor spelling or grammar mistakes or glaring fact errors that, for example, accusing the wrong person of a crime.
If adopting the web first mentality wasn’t already hard enough, caveats like this make it even harder. Why should I become web first if both my online product and the show itself are going to suffer?
The short answer ties back into the relevancy I mentioned above. Without a web first mentality, I lose the capacity to reach the majority of my potential audience.
My challenge, then, is one that I posit to all journalists: we need to adopt an “accurate web first” policy. If we’re going to place an emphasis on posting online in a timely manner, we need to place just as much emphasis on being correct when we do so. Technically, this is not a new tenet. Accuracy and verification are supposed to be fundamental components of any kind of journalism. Unfortunately, that gets lost when we place our priorities elsewhere, namely the web. We need to figure out how to find it again.
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