Wikis will help readers direct the community's most powerful voice: opinion writers from younger generation offer fresh perspective.Don't dismiss the wikitorial too quickly.
The Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. Times' experiment with interactive editorial writing failed within twenty-four hours, after Web users inundated in·un·date
tr.v. in·un·dat·ed, in·un·dat·ing, in·un·dates
1. To cover with water, especially floodwaters.
2. the site with pornographic images. But the Times' failure to properly execute its bold innovation should not deter better-prepared editorial pages.
A relatively inexperienced Web developer could have configured the Times' wild software to block all images from users. A simple dirty word filter can keep out most obscene language. And a reasonably competent computer programmer could have found a way to force wikitorial contributors through the Times' website registration process, which would have given the paper a better way to identify, and thus deter, would-be vandals.
Yet critics piled on the Times even before the wikitorial experiment began.
"This week the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). announced its intention to exile the square and stodgy stodg·y
adj. stodg·i·er, stodg·i·est
a. Dull, unimaginative, and commonplace.
b. Prim or pompous; stuffy: voice of authority farther yet," The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times' Stacy Schiff Stacy Madeleine Schiff (born October 26, 1961) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American nonfiction author and guest columnist for The New York Times. Biography
Schiff is a graduate of Phillips Academy preparatory school, and earned her B.A. declared. "Let's hope the interactive editorial will lead directly to the interactive tax return. On the other hand, I hope we might stop short before we get to structural engineering and brain surgery."
Cute, but Schiff's dig assumes the pros always get it right. Let's just say that if structural engineers showed the same skepticism toward their work as many professional editorial writers showed toward the U.S. administration's claims about Iraq, I'd be choosing the ferry instead of the bridge whenever I needed to cross a river.
Actually, newspaper editorial writing shares much in common with wilds--online articles that any reader may edit. Both are collective efforts, reflecting the view of a group of writers, rather than that of an individual. And both strive to report an enduring truth that encompasses more than just a single point of view.
While Schiff lambasted reader participation in the editorial process, Timothy Noah Timothy Noah is an American journalist. He is a senior writer for Slate Magazine, where he writes the "Chatterbox" column. He is also a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. Noah was previously an assistant managing editor at U.S. at the Times' opinion editor Michael Kinsley's old website, Slate, suggested that the Times abolish editorials altogether, arguing that papers ought to expand op-ed columns into the editorial page space.
"The genre has certain built-in defects," Noah wrote. "One is that editorials typically lack sufficient length to marshal evidence and lay out a satisfactory argument. Instead, they tend toward either timidity, at one extreme, or posturing, at the other. Almost every editorial I've ever read in my life has fallen into one of two categories: boring or irresponsible."
Having spent a few years of my life on an editorial page staff and many more years reading editorials, I will not dispute Noah's pessimistic view of the craft. Too many editorials stink. But a great many columns and traditional news stories die on the page, too. Too much traditional journalism amounts to little more than stenography stenography: see shorthand. . If a source fails to provide an appropriate conclusion, the reporter will not draw it--even if all necessary supporting evidence is there. Wild ideological claims get the same play as scientific evidence, should the ideologues find a sufficiently credentialed source to make their claims. Which they often do.
Editorial writing not only allows conclusions, it demands them. Great editorial writers work like appellate court A court having jurisdiction to review decisions of a trial-level or other lower court.
An unsuccessful party in a lawsuit must file an appeal with an appellate court in order to have the decision reviewed. judges, weighing available evidence in the context of past decisions and crafting arguments that seek to move a community to action. Yet too many publishers treat the editorial page as a dumping ground for aging or apathetic ap·a·thet·ic
Lacking interest or concern; indifferent.
apa·thet reporters, or, worse, a private forum to do favors for or settle scores with the paper's sources. Either way, readers don't matter.
Trashing the editorial page to give news-hole to columnists won't change that attitude. Nor will it give journalists, including opinion writers, additional resources to do more reporting. News publishers would do better to refresh their editorial pages with innovations that draw more readers into the process of crafting this institutional voice.
Why rely on the limited knowledge and reporting resources of a handful of editorial writers when you could ask your entire community to gather and examine evidence? Sure, some papers ask established community leaders to sit in on an editorial board meeting now and then. Yawn. Declining readership and diminished influence demand a more aggressive response.
"We are no longer couch potatoes absorbing whatever mass media many funnel our way," OJR OJR Online Journalism Review
OJR Owen J Roberts School District (Pottstown, Pennsylvania)
OJR Online Journal Recht senior editor J.D. Lasica writes in his new book, Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. "We make our own media. In many ways, we are our own media."
What news publishers need is a tool that will allow any interested readers a seat at the table, with the ability to help direct what ought to be their community's most powerful voice.
Something like, oh, say, a wiki A Web site that can be quickly edited by its visitors with simple formatting rules. Developed by Ward Cunningham in the mid-1990s to provide collaborative discussions, there are several "wiki" tools on the market for creating such sites, including www.editme.com, www.seedwiki.com, www. .
Robert Niles is editor of Online Journalism Online journalism is defined as the reporting of facts produced and distributed via the Internet.
An early leader was The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Review (ojr.org). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org