Skills for journalists in print and digital media.

“Living stories” may put us back on the bus

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Google, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are now offering a page of big running news stories dubbed “living stories.

The idea, according to Google, is to offer complete coverage of an on-going story “gathered together and prioritized on one URL. You can now quickly navigate between news articles, opinion pieces and features without long waits for pages to load. Each story has an evolving summary of current developments as a well as an interactive timeline of critical events. Stories can be explored by themes, significant participants or multimedia.”

For the folks who took news aggregation to new levels, this seems like a tweak at best, a subset that favors two newspapers and their shared editorial choices. Worse, its a narrowing of editorial vision to just two newspapers.

Timothy Crouse codified the pack journalism of big newspapers in his book, The Boys On the Bus, at the same time Hunter Thompson was blowing it up during the 1972 U.S. presidential campaign, with Crouse as his companion. “Living stories” may put us back on the bus.

On today’s page, for example, the lineup of big stories opens with “the fight over health care” and “the politics of global warming.” Clearly, big topics still very much in the news. Next on the list: A collection on District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her attempts to reform the district’s school system. The war in Afghanistan. The troubles of the Washington Redskins football team.

I doubt many people would rank Rhee or the Redskins among the top five stories on any list, much less a page devoted to big, unfolding stories. But apparently the boys on the Washington Post bus think so. When major news choices are not so obvious, the tilt could be much worse.

And in the time I’ve been writing this, the Rhee story has slipped up to the top spot among eight topics, so ranking appears to be based on the latest update. The bus on auto pilot.


Written by mroberts8

December 8, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Posted in Editing, Newstraining

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