As Web publications evolve into true news channels, Ted Koppel and the Mercury News’ Bruce Koon have some advice on the dangers online journalists face if they want to trade accuracy for immediacy
This column appeared in the October 1997 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
As online news matures, we’re beginning to see Web publications evolve into true news channels rather than warmed-over digital versions of their pulp parents.
While that term “channels” may seem strange when applied to an online newspaper, a year from now millions of us will be getting the news from channels we’ve chosen on our personal computers. Already, the New York Times and ABC News are the premium news channels on America Online. In August, Netscape released its new Netcaster browser, which will “push,” or “Webcast,” more than 700 channels of information from such sources as USA Today, CNNfn and CBS SportsLine. Microsoft, which will release its new browser this fall, has signed up the Web editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
As the online news world begins to cover news as it happens rather than once a day, are there risks that journalists with ink-stained backgrounds face in moving toward a broadcast model of Net news? Ted Koppel, anchor of ABC’s “Nightline,” thinks so. In his first interview on the subject of the Internet, Koppel has some words of warning for online reporters eager to reinvent the wheel of journalism.
“Reporting is not really about, ‘Let’s see who can get the first information to the public as quickly as possible,’ ” Koppel says. “It’s about: ‘Let’s see who can get the information to the public — as soon as we have had a chance to make sure the information is accurate, to weigh it against what we know, to put it in some sort of context.’ Only when you’re satisfied as a professional journalist that you’ve got the story and the facts have been verified, only then can you go with it.