Belfast Telegraph

Journalists need to point readers in the right direction

By Paul Connolly

Millions of words, quite literally, have been written about the impact of technology on journalism, and about in what manner news-gathering organisations generally should embrace the digital revolution.

Some of the industry’s finest global brains are still grappling with the issue, and even after all these years, few seem to agree on how to proceed.

There is, however, one thing that most editors agree on and that is the need for proper training in the basics of journalism.

In a recent survey, 100 editors across the UK were asked what the priorities are for the examination for senior journalists known as the NCE qualification (which is more fully embraced across the water than in Northern Ireland for reasons I’ve never quite fathomed).

Top of their list were writing, finding news stories, interviewing and legal knowledge.

At the bottom came social media, web skills and interaction with readers.

Editors all agreed that digital skills were rapidly rising up the agenda, but still insist that the basics of storytelling and news-gathering should come first as the base layer; with digital skills built on top of this core.

Which kind of brings us to a complaint from a reader about a recent Tele article headlined ‘Relief after Army defuses dissident bomb left in bank’.

Helena Brown says she was left clueless until half-way into the story about where this bomb drama actually happened.

I’ll let Helena take up the story: “I found that I had to read half the article before I knew which town was being referred to!

“I haven't a clue where ‘the Hill Street area' relates to and the first mention of Newry is in paragraph five, where the ‘area commander for Newry and Mourne' makes a comment. Where is Newry and Mourne to the uninitiated?

“The first inclination that Newry is the town in question is in paragraph eight, approximately half-way through the piece!”

She quips that she knows newspapers “need to draw readers into their articles, but I almost lost interest altogether!” Ouch.

Actually, training would not have been the issue here, as all journalists are trained to insert location information at the top of a story in week one of journalism school.

The supervisory process, however, in particular revision, did not perform its task, although — thankfully — the Final edition and internet versions did locate the incident properly at the top of the story.

Still, no excuses for publishing the initial story in that manner.

Thanks, Helena, for drawing the matter to our attention.

Belfast Telegraph


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