Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Times Gets Burned

I am not a media critic or pundit. I am no expert on the trends of media. However, I have to think that the folks at the New York Times are trying to figure out what hit them yesterday evening.

I get email news alerts from the Times; I see these on my Blackberry. Thankfully, it is still a free feature and the little stubs of information do not count as articles against the twenty free ones per month. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in the nation and the world, especially when you are on the go and can't get to radio, television or the computer. So last night I get one at 5:47 pm CDT. Titled "Up to 30 Dismembered Bodies Found Near Houston, Reuters Reports," it is startling to me. In fact, my very first thought is that it is an uncharacteristic story for the Times to give much play. It seems out of character. Well, my puzzlement increased when about an hour later I get another news alert. The title of this one reads, "Sheriff's Office Has Not Found Bodies at Site of Reported Graves, Houston Chronicle Says." This morning the story is more fleshed out. A person identifying themselves as a "psychic" told authorities that there were bodies at a certain house near Houston. She called back after the first search yielded nothing, and gave a second location. At the second location, a family's home where the people were out of town, authorities found blood--blood left from an apparent suicide attempt at the location in the recent past but no bodies. Now a new hunt is on, for the tipster.

It cannot be good for a news organization to have to put out a retraction an hour after it "breaks" a story. While it is good to be the first if you can to break a story, it is bad to break something that turns out to be absolutely nothing. In fact, this story so disappeared for the Times that it did not appear in the top three U.S. news items in the headline summary delivered to my email box this morning. It's very obvious that the New York Times is stumbling as it tries to find footing in the digital age, to retain its prestige as one of the nation's top news sources, yet be fresh enough to garner new readers and try to work the newspaper model, and make enough money to stay in business. In its efforts to do this, the Times tripped up last night. It will be interesting to see if there is any fall out.


Bob G. said...

In today's "instant" world, getting ANY information out there is what's important...

But what was that thing President REAGAN mentioned about "Trust...BUT VERIFY"?

Always best to seek out more than sevral sources, especially with ALL the source material out there.

You'd think the TIMES would be getting it a bit more correctly these days, right?

Gonna be intersting to watch this pan out.

Good call.

Stay safe out there.

Mo Rage said...

Excellent entry. Excellent post. Great observation.

You would think that the Times would want to make sure they were on track, especially after they blew so badly on the latest Iraq War attack of W's by just laying down and being his lapdog. And then, additionally, because they know that online is where it's going to be and where we're all going to be in short order.

Hopefully they can somehow address this quickly and thoroughly or they'll even more quickly become and be irrelevant.

The Observer said...

It was so out of character of the New York Times I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s, this story.

They are struggling, and it's a pity, because in so many ways the Times is a force for good, even when they swing too far left for my taste. I am just not sure the national newspaper model can be made to work any more.

Thanks for coming by and commenting.

The Observer

The Observer said...

Bob G:
If I was wearing the green visor of the editor, I would have waited for the bodies to be unearthed. Or gone with "authorities are looking" as a line. To say definitively that bodies had been found, especially based on others' reporting, especially others who were not local, seemed a tad ill advised.

Thanks for coming by and have a nice weekend!

The Observer