Breaking stories online: Yes or no?

newspaperHere’s the scenario for a college newspaper with a web site to ponder. Your paper publishes weekly and mid-cycle –let’s say two days before publication– a big story breaks and you’ve got the facts. Do you publish the story online immediately, or do you wait two days and let the print edition have the scoop? What if you publish every other week and the story breaks on the off week?

I say, go for it online as soon as you can. But my student editors do not always agree. In fact, while they could publish an updated version of the each week’s the night before the paper is distributed on campus, most of my editors choose to hold back the online edition until at least distribution day. Occassionally they’ll break a story online, but the newspaper reporters let the print edition deadlines steer when they write their stories.

Ran across two opposing stories on this today. Independent editor Simon Kelner has spoken out against the practice, thinks you should never break stories online.

Kelner said: “If you have an exclusive story at five o’clock to go in the following day’s newspaper, the idea that you would put it on the website for nothing strikes me as complete madness.

“Our relationship with our own website is one where the paper is first and foremost, and the website comes second.

Greg Bowers, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, disagrees. He says break news online and tell stories in print.

Telling people news they already know is not a good business model, so, if newspapers are to remain relevant, interpretation is the only way to go in print — especially in the sports department.

How do you feel about this question and why?

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