As more newspapers shift into the world of blogging, the journalists and editors trained to do journalism the old way are having to unlearn what they know and take a new approach to gathering and sharing the news. Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine points to one such old-school journalist having to learn new tricks: Georgina Henry, editor of the UK Guardian‘s new blog, Comment Is Free. (Jarvis is also one of several regular contributors to the blog.)
Henry says her first week on the blog beat was “like riding a bucking bronco when you’ve never been on a horse before.” After so many years of doing news the traditional way, it’s tough to throw our brains in reverse. (I feel her pain. I’m doing traditional PR half the time and blog PR as well, and those PR/journalism lines continue to blur, too.)
Many of the conventions ingrained by 16 years as an editor on the print version of the Guardian have been turned on their head. Instead of rejecting all but a tiny number of pieces from those offered every day from writers outside and inside the building – the excuse frequently being lack of space – we’ve invited several hundred people to blog as and when they want on any subject they choose and at any length. Instead of tight copy-editing – back and forth to writers, asking them to elaborate arguments, change introductions, and cut copy to fit – we’re checking mainly just for libel. Some would say that not being forced to make choices and unlimited space sounds like easier editing. So why has it felt like such a white-knuckle ride?
It’s due in part to “[t]he randomness, that sense of never quite knowing who’s going to post when and what,” she writes. That randomness “is both the joy of the new site and slightly scary. It’s the lack of control you feel you have at times – and control, I realise, is the one of the hardest things for editors to cede.”
Is it control that she is ceding, or is it the illusion of control? I believe it is the latter, but whichever it is, Ms. Henry, I hope you enjoy the ride.