We're living through a digital news experiment, but does that mean the news will be sacrificed?
[Updated] While I don't share the belief that being first is automatically better, I understand that it is a time-honored news philosophy. It's tempting to tsk-tsk the haste with which Nola.com posted a story on the Frenchmen Street shooting, but television and radio have gone live with little more than a headline for decades. Just because it's easy to see the online traffic logic in publishing first, fast and frequently doesn't mean it's a sin, or one unique to Nola.com. Still, the haste to be first shouldn't come at the cost of basic news writing.
Sunday at 2:51 p.m., a story vaguely credited to "Nola.com/Times-Picayune" and not a specific writer reported the shooting. The lede was "Several people have been shot in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street. NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune is on the scene." Based on that and the fact that the reporter is mentioned three times in the story, you'd think that the reporter's presence - not the shooting or the fact that it was at a second line - was the story.
It's not until the third paragraph that we learned that the "incident" took place at a Mothers Day second line - the sort of information that should have been higher in the story. We learn that five or six shots were fired and that at least three people fell. Five or six? At least three? We now know that 17 people were injured, and even if they didn't all fall down immediately, more than three did. Technically, the story's right, but that's a serious hedge.
My guess is that the story was reported by photographer Lauren McGaughey since three of her photos accompany the text, and someone else wrote the text. To my mind, the shame doesn't fall on whoever wrote the piece, though. It's the lack of quality control that editors traditionally provide. I can't throw too many stones at since I edit myself, but the piece is hardly the level of journalism The Times-Picayune's history gave us a reason to expect, and one that the Newhouses and T-P higher-ups assured us would continue as it embarked on the digital adventure. Unfortunately, it's level many feared.
Here's the story in its entirety as it ran when I saw it:
Several people have been shot in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune is on the scene.
The incident occurred Sunday about 2 p.m. at the intersection of Frenchmen and North Villere streets.
A NOLA.com|Times-Picayune reporter was participating in the Mother's Day second line in the area when the shooting occurred and heard six to seven shots fired. The reporter saw at least two people shot and at least three additional people fall during the commotion.
There were about 100 people in the second line when the shooting occurred.
Stay with NOLA.com for updates as more information becomes available.
Updated May 13, 7:22 a.m.
The current version of the story is far more complete and uses the possibilities presented by online journalism well.