Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reader watchdogs City Paper local coverage, unacknowledged re-writes online

West Nashville community advocate Mina Johnson followed the debate of the West Police Precinct with great interest. She also noticed substantial changes in the evolution of a SouthComm reporter's copy. She alerted me to the changes in a November 17 piece by Joey Garrison:
[Original title] Council approves spending $14M for new West Precinct
[Redacted title] Council OKs property sale for new West Precinct

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 8:54pm
By Joey Garrison


Mayor Karl Dean’s proposal to turn the former Bob Frensley car dealership on Charlotte Avenue into a new $14 million West Police Precinct and crime lab received overwhelming Metro Council approval Tuesday night.

[Original article, now deleted w/o comment] Despite vocal opposition from some west Nashville Council members, the panel voted 34 to 5, with one abstention, to pass a resolution to acquire the property and refurbish the structure into police facilities.

[Redacted article] Despite vocal opposition from some west Nashville Council members, the panel voted 34 to 5, with one abstention, to pass a resolution to acquire the property for $4.2 million. The refurbishing of the structure into police facilities will take additional funds, not yet approved by Council.

....

The proposal had been championed by Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas as an opportunity to upgrade the current West Police Precinct building, while bringing new technology to the police force. [Original article included this now deleted sentence w/o comment] Metro will pay $6.5 million for the property. The remaining funds will be used to update the property.
While I referred to the latest revisions as "redacted", they are not redacted in the conventional editorial sense. Conventionally, redaction (or editing) occurs before publication. Redactions after publication are "corrections" or "clarifications" added to the original intact copy. The City Paper seems to have shifted from the classic journalistic model of making edits before publication to making them after, which is more of a blogging model of writing (although a model closed from the top down to crowdsourcing). Journalists should concede that if they are making that move, they also must give up some claims of professionalism in news coverage.

Claims of a professional class of news reporters are already disintegrating at the reader level, even without shifts in online editing. Local readers are no longer going to be reduced to the status of passive consumers or empty containers into which paternalistic reporters randomly pour whatever they deem to be newsworthy. They are actively engaging local content and noting and documenting how and sometimes why news conveys information as it does.

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