[UPDATE 3/22 3:25pm: I see some people are taking this post as a rebuttal of Ben’s, and it really isn’t. We both agree that the afternoon post on the Times website was sensationalistic and would stoke unfounded fears, and (I think) we would agree that the next morning’s story was much better in that regard. Aside from a philosophical difference about the usefulness of discerning people’s motives, the real point of this post was a reflection on instant-reaction journalism vs. the more traditional kind.]
I’d like to offer a somewhat feeble defense of Mike Lindblom and the Seattle Times in the whole substandard steel fiasco.
Yesterday morning’s article, which I presume was the one in the print edition, meets what I’d consider to be basic standards of fairness and accuracy. I won’t claim to know Mr. Lindblom’s innermost biases and prejudices, which we all have, but I believe he considers himself a professional that wants to get the story right.
In the past, newspapers have had a few hours for things to cool off before the print deadline. Today, however, there’s a lot of pressure to get things out there as soon as you learn about them, without adequate time for reflection. On a much smaller scale, we experience it blogging.
And speaking from that experience, the pressure to immediately react is what sets free our preconceived notions. I’ll sometimes write a draft in the heat of the moment and then let it sit for 6 or 7 hours. When I edit it later, the end product is almost always far better than what I had first written. I’m more able to ask critical questions about my own assumptions, and how other viewpoints might change perceptions of the story.
For all their history and tradition, modern newspapers are grappling with the same issues in their online editions. In a perfect world, I’d prefer a group on the transportation beat that didn’t always assume the worst about Sound Transit. At the same time, however, I think they’re professionals and are going to figure out the new rules of the road with the rest of us.