Print publication and digital publication differ in their reach and persistence.
A printed newspaper reaches those who live within range of the paper’s carriers. An online newspaper can reach anyone who has access to the internet, worldwide.
Printed newspapers usually remain in public view for a week or two, stacked on one’s coffee table at home or in the rack at the local restaurant. Online newspapers are available for an indefinite period, their articles cached on servers beyond the reach of the publisher.
Therefore, compared to print distribution, online distribution magnifies the effect a given news article has on everyone and everything mentioned in the story.
Should that be considered? Instead of pushing everything in the print edition to the online edition, should newspapers discriminate between distribution options, using content as the guiding factor?
For example, should police log lists of arrests and charges only be printed, not published online? After all, those who are arrested and/or charged are innocent until proven guilty. Should their names be forever associated with charges that may be later dismissed?
One might use ethical or moral arguments for discriminating between distribution methods, but there are practical considerations to be weighed as well. While pushing everything to the web might be the easiest technical process to follow, reserving certain content for print might earn the paper goodwill, reduce the number of requests it receives to take content down off the web, and add cross-platform marketing opportunities. If the police log were only published in the Sunday print edition, for example, a house ad in the online edition about the log might drive online readers to buy a Sunday print copy.
It’s an idea. What do you think?
The Nieman Lab reports that The New Haven Independent, a nonprofit online-only news outlet, has tailored its cop shop policy in recognition of the reach and persistence of internet news. Paul Bass, the paper’s editor and founder is quoted as saying, “With the advent of the Internet, what’s online becomes people’s main or only source of news. People’s reputations are at stake, and often the arrest itself and not the outcome is what is known about them.” (“No mugshot exploitation here: The New Haven Independent aims to respect the reputations of those arrested in the community it covers” —Neiman Lab)