Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Question of the week (#5)

What are some of the ethical issues involved with placing editorial content online?

Most magazines have websites, though their aims are different. Some offer information on the web only after it has appeared in print. Others write new pieces just for web readers.

Whatever the copy is, do the ethics rule that apply to print apply to the web? What are the rules for magazine websites? Is this an area where editorial staffs are more ethically lax? Is this a venue where advertisers can have a freer rein? Should they? And what about those regurgitated press releases — shunned from print issues — that have found homes on magazine websites?


To offer your comments, click on the comments link below.


Spring Suptic said...

Paul Conley just posted a nice bit regarding those regurgitated press releases. You can read it here:

Sue Pelletier said...

The ethical issues for Web writing are the same as for print, I believe. It is maybe even more important than it used to be to have fair and balanced online news, since that is often where people see the information first. By the time they read the beautifully researched, fact-checked, and proofread magazine article, readers already think they know all about the topic because they read about it online last week. If what they read was a press release presented as news, well, 'nuff said.

The problem is time. So many print editors are now being asked to write daily news items for the Web in addition to their print work, and we're all stretched pretty thin already. That makes it easier to fall back on regurgitating press releases. Not right, just easier. Also, print editors and writers seem to think that online material matters less, for some reason. Yet these same editors and writers turn to the Web for information daily. How ironic is that?

And keep in mind that your competition might be spewing the same press release verbatim on their Web sites. Is that really how you want to represent your publication?

If you absolutely have no other choice, at least identify that the source of information is a press release, just as you'd identify any other source in any media. That's only fair to the reader.

Spring Suptic said...

In this rushed environment, it's easy to see why many publications take a less-intensive editing road for their web content. And there is the perception that if something is wrong it can easily be fixed.

My concern is that the quick editing habits editorial staffs form for the web will bleed over to their print work. And unlike the fluidity of the web, the printed page is stagnant. A mistake in print is a mistake forever.