At around 1.30pm today, January 15, Sky News’ Breaking News section stated that two anti-whaling activists were being held ‘hostage’ after boarding a Japanese ship.
The story consisted of one grainy picture and less than two paragraphs of text.
Most sites such as the BBC had, to the best of my knowledge, no reference to the story at all.
Within just half an hour Sky had updated their story three times, adding more detail, colour, background information and pictures.
A few hours later there was a full picture story.
Being able to build on a story quickly like this is the biggest advantage of the internet – especially for a newspaper website.
Broadcasters have always been able to use their mediums of television or radio to keep a story rolling, but newspapers have only ever been able to print the story as they knew it, up to the time of going to press.
Now though they can compete for people’s interest in news via the web - they can develop a story just as quickly as anybody else.
And Sky News show how this should be done.
Editors shouldn’t be afraid of going with a story: as long as all the normal, basic checks are done.
But every detail is not needed before something is published online – these can be added as and when they come in., just like the whaling story on Sky.
However, some news organisations still appear to be too restrained: waiting until they have all the information before publishing online – but nowadays that can mean the story is hours old and has already been published on dozens of official and unofficial news websites.
Of course this doesn’t mean that traditional standards and legal issues should be forgotten; far from it - they just need to be carefully adapted to the changing digital environment.