18 Nov 2009

a journalist learns a lesson in collaboration

I hate getting approval. Nothing grates on my inner newspaper reporter more than sending away my precious prose to get changed by the people I have interviewed.

I am the reporter. It is my job to get the story straight. So hands off!

This is the standard attitude, at least among American journalists. See the trouble a US Supreme Court justice got into for asking for approval from student journalists here.

(note to clients - I still send all my stories for approval. I really do. This is your communications strategy we are talking about, not hard news. And I keep all your changes. Just keep paying us. Please.)

But pleas for business aside, I am starting to see a Web 2.0 angle to approval, a move away from a journalist's arrogance to a more collaborative way of working.

I recently wrote a magazine article about a professor and her economic and political theories. I read article after article, watched videos, talked to her on Skype. I wrote the article, checked it, revised it. And sent it away for approval.

I got it back, and it was covered with red, and I realized something. I had gotten the theories wrong. Not really wrong, just subtly wrong, but wrong enough to be wrong, if you know what I mean.

Aside from saving myself some angry post-publication e-mails, I also liked getting the chance to see her changes and incorporate them into my larger structure; I liked the chance to further refine the story, hopefully to give it an extra depth.

And collaboration is at the center of Web 2.0, of media in general, with the comments on stories sometimes providing more news than the actual article, with links and pings and social network marketing and all that.

So maybe sending the next article out for approval will be a little less painful, maybe I will see it as a chance for improvement, a chance to learn.


Nathan Hegedus

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