This is a letter to The Guardian I wrote today. It applies to many other newspapers in Britain, on both sides of the political spectrum. Yes, I realise this makes me look old — I prefer to think it makes me look busy — but I think there’s an important principle here that many news organizations are forgetting, which is that traditional journalism is not about the format, but about the skills, values and professionalism of well-trained journalists.
I am becoming increasingly irritated with the Guardian website’s policy of using prominent headlines for stories that turn out to be a mix of live blogs and twitter feeds.
When I click on a headline, I expect to be taken to a story that summarises the state of the play so far. I expect journalists to have distilled raw information for me and presented it in a readily understandable form – that is the point of news journalism, after all. If I wanted raw blogging, I would use Flipboard or somesuch; I’d construct my own newspaper. But I go to the Guardian because I trust your journalists to have done a better job finding, evaluating, filtering and summarising sources than I ever could. I am far too busy with my own job to do a journalist’s job too.
Now, when I click on a link from the Guardian homepage, I never know whether I’m going to get a real story, or something that looks to me like lazy unprofessionalism, the careless ramblings of news junkies without training or standards.
I understand that the website fulfils particular purposes. But it would help me a lot if headlines were reserved for the results of full, bells-and-whistles journalism, with links to the blogging below for those who want it.
Please don’t assume that all your readers like or have time for the cacophony that new media encourages. I, for one, go to the Guardian to help me cut through the noise, but increasingly I find that you are merely repackaging it.
Dr John Parkinson, University of Warwick