Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Courting publicity

There was a really interesting debate on Twitter today, about whether you should put court reports straight online or not, kicked off by this tweet from the Liverpool Post's deputy editor Alison Gow.

It reminded me of many debates we've had in our newsroom - I'm glad to say, the policy is now we pretty much put all court stuff up straight away, unless it's extra special, and we are sure we have it to ourselves.

A good example would be this inquest - the tragic story of a young woman who died because she took dodgy diet pills - we decided to hold off on that because it was so unusual, and that also allowed us to get better and more thoughtful reaction from family, etc. than the bare bones of the court report.

So, where do you draw the line? I think for us, it's the human interest factor which is key. For maximum impact, these need to be kept back for a bit of development first. And I don't think this is manipulating the news agenda, or patronising our audience - I really think this is doing the best we can to tell our community's stories. I don't think opening that diet pill story to online debate would have added nearly as much as allowing the mother space to collect her thoughts.

So yes, I think we still have a long way to go in using our website to develop stories - but equally, I think there are still certain stories where you have to hold back.

And ultimately, I think we would be doing our readers a disservice by publishing bare bones first, then fleshing out. After all, the joy of news - certainly for me - is the "guess what!" factor - and in these deeply personal cases, a fully fledged story does that so much better.

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