There were some issues with power going in and out at locations in Los Angeles this week.
The Los Angeles Times’ collaborative (with sister TV stations) breaking-news blog, L.A. Now, was all over it, reporting that though the cause wasn’t known, it wasn’t a disaster. For one, “There have been no reports of widespread power outrages in the city.”
For a city with violence image problem, one where “Southland” seems barely gritty enough and where the last riots were less than 20 years ago, “power outrages” would seem to be a serious issue.
OK, now I’m just being fussy, right? Well, yes. But here’s why I can be fussy — it’s more than 50 hours since that was posted, and there was never a fix made. There haven’t been comments noting the typo, but surely someone noticed at the office, right? Maybe not. The Times, at least with L.A. Now, has chosen reporting and speed over any real editing. Why?
There’s a cost element, for sure. It doesn’t pay, right now, to have too many copy editors, and certainly not to have as many as a metro/national paper such as the Times was used to.
On the other hand, a breaking-news blog is a place you want your readers, especially your heavy-usage, more critical readers, to be turning to regularly. Regular typos, inaccuracies and other embarrassments will make it worse to be first than stodgy.
Also, the costs aren’t necessarily drastic — the true costs are in time and resources. How much do you want reporters posting quick updates, other employees maintaining the website, and even a few editors reading behind the writers? What does the cost/benefit analysis say?
The point is, let’s not pretend that there’s a separate staff running L.A. Now. Even when I was working 11-hour days, laying out seven pages, editing copy throughout and putting out several other fires at my small community paper, I singlehandedly had mild runs of posting what passes for breaking news most days in upstate New York.
So, the real reason, I think, is simply the online audience. Especially on a blog like L.A. Now, those readers don’t have time for typos, and moreover, don’t care. This is just a guess on my part, but even the more devoted readers of the Times won’t mind a lighter editing standard on breaking news as long as it doesn’t carry over into the print or proper Web article. And the fly-by readers? They likely don’t care, and their monetary and advertising value and influence are minimal regardless of their opinion.
As for fixing the errors after the fact? Who cares? If it’s not right now, it’s not news anymore.
How do editors overcome this? I have a few thoughts coming soon. And they’re here: Part 2.