Editor's Note

Being First

This recommendation is a bit tardy, but if you haven't read the New York Times Magazine article on the incredibly popular link-sharing site Reddit and its role in the misinformation that spread during the chase to find the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, you should make an effort to do so. Sure, journalism about journalism is clearly going to be the sort of thing an editor is interested in, but it's a fascinating look at our information culture in 2013 and beyond.

However, to summarize, because I don't really know if you're going to read it, even though I asked you to, Reddit was the launching pad for a misindentifcation of Sunil Tripathi as the second bombing suspect, later actually identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In a matter of minutes, the false identification spread like wildfire through social media egged on by writers for Buzzfeed and other sites hungry for content on that day.

People, especially those in the media, make mistakes, but the article really did make me think about the speed at which we make editorial decisions these days. I'm not immune to the pressures of trying to get information up quickly, although as a weekly publication less so than a daily paper. But the question is why? There are a number of weird quotes in the magazine's article from journalists about why they spread information via Twitter that they didn't know to be correct, even to the extent of sending contradictory tweets back-to-back, including one from Dylan Byers of Politico who said "I'm using Twitter as a tool to get out what information is out there and tracing it back to the source."

I like Politico and I guess Byers might be talking about his personal information brand or something instead of his publication's, but what value does simply getting the information out there have? What appeals to me about doing this job in the first place was the ability to gather information and make sense of it, providing context, telling the reader why this stuff matters in the first place.

So, while this sounds like a pre-emptive cop-out for the next time we get beat on a story, I think I want our goal to be the best source of information on the stories we cover. First if it works out that way, but willing to slow down and to be the tortoise instead of the hare.

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