Friday, October 16, 2009

Not a Newspaper. That's for Sure. UPDATED

Yeah. Like, who gives a crap about whether it's true, right? Because after all, we'd rather read garbage and rumors than fact. Denton should be embarrassed to have written and circulated this memo. But he's probably not.

From the Awl, a memo from Nick Denton to Gawker staffers.

From: Nick Denton
Date: Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 6:33 PM
Subject: We're not running a newspaper
A few cases recently where we've thought *way* too much before publishing. Even when we've had exclusive information or even documentary evidence.
There's always a good argument for waiting. Let's check to see whether the associated claim is true; oh, the source might be exposed.
But we should publish anyway, making clear what we know to be true and what remains up in the air. Or even just publish a headline or quicklink and fill the story in later. We can always update. We can always write a second post when we've established more of the facts.
We've brought in some of the better traditions of newspapers. We're breaking more stories than we ever have. That's awesome.
But there's no way we're going to slow our publishing schedule to that of a ponderous newspaper-style organization — where everything has to go through layers of edit and approval and checking and legal. If we did that, we'd be neither as authoritative as a newspaper nor as nimble as the smaller blogs that *do* indeed publish as soon as they get something.
At some media organizations you might get rapped for running a premature story. At Gawker Media, you'll lose way more points for being scooped on a story you had in your hands.

  A little update, because this memo is so disturbing. I did a little legal work a couple of years ago, preparing to serve as a defense witness in a libel case. Had it gone to trial, the suit would have turned on accuracy and whether the paper had done the utmost to report and verify the facts, and had stuck to good journalistic practices. And as a copy chief at one point in my career, during which the city desk never met a deadline it couldn't blow, I would occasionally yell out to the rim as time ran out, "If it ain't libel, send it." But, you see, that was the one unbreachable barrier--libel. You simply cannot tell your staff to skip the well-established editing process AND the lawyers and think that that won't blow up in your face someday. I await the first legal test of this foolish memo's premise.

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