Sunday, July 26, 2009

Set Aside SEO and Train for Accuracy

Arriving home after about a 300-mile roundtrip to a field hockey camp, I found this headline and thought, wow, I missed a good story: The missing soldier has been found. Alas, it was not to be.

A headline should never get ahead of the story: the soldier hasn't been found; Pakistan is helping the United States to look for him.
Pakistan helps U.S. find captured soldier

By Julian E. Barnes
As part of a warming partnership between the two countries, Islamabad has shared intelligence on a soldier captured by Taliban militants.
With a confidence boost provided by a series of operations against militants inside Pakistan, Islamabad has stepped up the intelligence and military cooperation provided to the U.S., and to a lesser degree Afghanistan, in the last six months, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. military drone flights into Pakistan, designed to help collect intelligence against militant targets, have resumed, and the information is being shared and analyzed with the Pakistani military at the Joint Coordination Center at the border Torkham Gate in Afghanistan, American officials said.

Officials differed on the value of the intelligence Pakistan has shared on Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, who was captured by Taliban militants in Afghanistan on June 30. One senior defense official acknowledged that Islamabad had provided intelligence, but cautioned not to overstate its value.

And I do not mean to be snarky, though I am angry when I say this, but really, newspaper editors: Instead of spending a lot of time training working, capable editors in search-engine optimization, how about teaching the web site people who are often not really editors to write accurate, sensible headlines? Or make sure those qualified editors who are now doing double duty for the print edition and web site have the time to do their job well?

Wouldn't the results be better? We've got the training exactly backwards if there is to be any hope at all of retaining the value of journalism as we know it today. Reporting and editing are not like hand grenades, where close is good enough.

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