Web Journalism: Where are the editors?

To get updates on various topics, I’ve subscribed to various Twitter feeds. Many of these are not based on traditional journalism models (i.e. Newspapers) but on small, startup agencies that cover specialized subjects. Unfortunately, the issue that many journalists predicted would happen with Web 2.0 journalism seems to be taking hold: the quality of the writing is, IMHO, below 10th grade level.

this post from Mashable as an example. Simple errors here that are easily prevented with one quick look at Google Maps: 1) Jeddah isn’t “near” the Red Sea. It is ON the Red Sea. And Dubai isn’t a neighbor to Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates are. Abu Dhabi is. But Dubai isn’t. Also, if you look at the linked original article, Mashable has conveniently ignored a very important statement: “The $1.2bn (RM4bn) project has been plagued by setbacks since it was first proposed in 2011...”

Nitpicking? Hm. Maybe.

How about this article on Techcrunch. Skip to the section on the wind turbine “Trinity”. And I quoth from the text: “The micro USB port is used to charge the turbine before it can be uses with a 15,000 mAh battery. “ Ummm... why do I have to charge the turbine before using it? And what sort of grammar is “before it can be uses with a ... battery”??? That sentence doesn’t even make any sense!

This sentence from the same post is even better: “The mini turbine is powered by a 15W generator.” Um. I thought the mini turbine is wind-powered? Try: “A 15W generator is powered by the mini turbine”... ahh! Now I get it.

To be fair to Techcrunch: they merely copied the text 1:1
from the Backerjack site. Maybe that’s the new journalism: surf the internet for possibly interesting material, steal the text on these sites without reading it, paste it to your own website and put your name to it to make people think you wrote this stuff yourself.

On Techcrunch, Mr.
Ross Rubin, who posted the article above, did just that. This gentleman calls himself “principal analyst” at Reticle Research, “which he founded in 2012” (please note the quotes - when I got my degrees, we were still taught that sentences from other sources need to be quoted - something Mr. Rubin apparently didn’t learn). I always thought analysts... well - analyze? If you’d like to know what an industry analyst does, check out this extensive entry in Wikipedia.

I don’t want to only pick on Mr. Rubin here - I’ve noticed this as a general trend, and not just in the US. Apparently, the social media culture generates so much pressure to tweet, post, link and blog that folks would actually be required to sit down for a couple of hours a day to generate output.

Good thing that with WYSIWYG computing, Cmd-C/Cmd-V (that’s Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V for you poor folks out there still using Windows) was part of the “package”. And good thing those two keys are so close to one another, otherwise one would burn even more calories copying other folk’s 5th-grade-level content by having to use two hands to plagiarize.

******** April 22 Update: on the day I published this, Mr. Rubin sent me a tweet: “@hdbaumeister Thanks for pointing out the issues. I’ll address them.” He did and I definitely want to mention that here. Subsequently, you’ll find the linked article above has been edited. Thanks, Mr. Rubin!
blog comments powered by Disqus