Wednesday 15 July 2009

We know our news sucks?

I'm reading Scott Rosenberg's new book: 'Say everything' on blogging.

On page 52, Rosenberg talks about Dave Winer, one of the Web's pioneering software entrepreneurs.

In order to 'realize his billion-websites vision' way back in 1995, Winer started writing some code, writing about it, trying it out with some other people, writing about what happens and then writing about it some more.

The idea was that the users corrected the software, fixed errors and came back to him - slowly but surely the software would improve.

Rosenberg includes this quote from Winer where he told people how this would work:
"We make shitty software. We know our software sucks. But it's shipping! Next time we'll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that's perfect is one you're dreaming about. Real software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use. But it's a process. We'll make it less shitty".
It made me think. Can we apply this to news?
We (journalists?) make shitty news. We know our news sucks. But we've published it. Next time we'll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only news that's perfect is the news you're dreaming about. Real news takes time but demands to be known as soon as, or even before, we know what it is. Real news is often obscured by all sorts of people who want to spin the story. And real news will have factual errors, mistaken interpretations, and incomplete conclusions. But it's a process. We'll make it less shitty (because you'll make it less shitty.)
And if that does make any sort of sense what does it mean for our understanding of standards in news?

(I suppose getting the software wrong has less of an impact than getting the news wrong and like all analogies I'm sure it breaks down in other places too, but anyway food for thought...)


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