Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shovelware, one more task on the newsroom checklist

Photo courtesy of Tiziana Haug of The New York Times

By: Amber Genuske

For many traditional publications, the emergence of the web, a new platform to publish content on, has not inspired a fervor to create additional content, but another task to complete before the night in the newsroom is over. Despite having unlimited space, numerous possibilities for alternative story forms and world-wide access, publications are committing the ultimate web atrocity of what is known as shovelware.

Shovelware (link to a funny anecdote on shovelware by New York Times reporter William Safire) is the publishing of content online that is identical to the print version. Without development of stories for online — multimedia, longer story form, etc. — shoveling content online when the script is set at 2 a.m. to be printed, copying and pasting the stories and photos online and clicking the "publish" button becomes a chore instead of an opportunity.

One of the reasons this problems persists in traditional newsroom setting is the lack of a dedicated staff, or even the lack of knowledge of the staff, to multimedia and/or web. This leaves the stragglers at the end of the night, i.e. the copy editors or the managing editor, to publish the content (The Daily Texan is a prime example of this).

While websites like Innovation in College Media provide reasonable suggestions like "Post news as it happens," "Don’t rely on Twitter updates," Stagger deadlines," and "Make sure everyone (or almost everyone) in your newsroom knows how to post to your site," there is often a lack of emphasis on the creation of multimedia content and longer story form to avoid this problem.

Multimedia and developing longer story form for web-only content are the best ways to supplement a story online to eradicate the problem of shovelware and plain text on a page. Publications like The New York Times and the LA Times luckily have figured this out, while places like The Daily Texan are left in the dust and dirt of shovelware.

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