A little while ago I got myself embroiled in a rather heated debate with another member of the newspaper industry over the “transparent newsroom”.
It’s a policy that has been adopted by The Spokesman Review in the US.
The newspaper has embraced transparency in an attempt to regain credibility in its community. It even has an interactive news conference which is videoed and put onto the web.
Why shouldn’t UK newspapers such as mine embrace this practice, I asked? Surely it would make us more accountable and show a willingness to engage with our readers. Isn’t our biggest battle on the web for trust and credibility? This would be one way to help us establish ours.
Not so, said my friend. It would be dangerous as news conferences will discuss the legalities of some stories, some of which would not be approved for publication. Showing video of these conversations on the web was publication in itself and we could be sued for that.
Also, there are journalists who are very good at what they do and not very good at public speaking – they would come across poorly on video and may actually lose the trust of readers.
Language and “gallows humour” would also be a problem, he suggested.
These are not, however, issues that come up in this video by The Spokesman Review:
[via Colin Mulvany]
The top issues here are nutters and the increased amount of time needed to interact with and justify editorial decisions to readers.
What is also worth noting is that there is also no current statistical information to demonstrate that this practice is bringing more people to the newspaper.
But, it’s an idea that has been taken up by other UK newspapers. Last month, The Liverpool Daily Post dabbled with transparency and became the first paper in the country to broadcast their news conference live over the Internet.
So, should The Birmingham Post be doing the same?