|Pic: Derek Backen via Flickr|
A few years ago I gave a talk to FACT Liverpool’s Art of Digital conference called Identity 2.0 considering how we try to comport ourselves online (professionally and otherwise) compared with our true selves; how, sometimes, the divisions become blurred, and this sends mixed-messages about who and what we are.
I remembered that talk again after taking a telephone call from a reader pointing out an inaccuracy in a print article uploaded to WalesOnline website, and asking what could be done.
I outlined the options – I could update the article, showing where and what update had occurred, add a clarification and link to our Corrections and Clarifications page, and pass on details to the print title so it could also correct the inaccuracy in its clarifications column too.
The caller’s response was so unexpected, and so on-the-money, that I ended up tweeting it:
He was genuinely not bothered that a story might have been read in print or discussed by perhaps 35,000 people (taking reader reach into account) whereas the online article was read by 232 people on the day it was published, and 366 people in total to date; the concern was around its online lifespan and, I suspect, its portability.
… and was toughing it out and responding via Twitter but that account has closed now. The incident was reported locally in the South Wales Echo and on WalesOnline (it was decided not to name her), and also made international news although it’s the video that will haunt her down the years. If you plan on searching for it, it’s NOT sfw.
It definitely feels as though, post-phone hacking and with the Leveson Inquiry in full swing, people are far more aware of their right to call out their local paper if they have an issue with something.
Personally I’ve handled more PCC requests for information in the past eight months than in my entire career, and that’s not a stat that’s skewed because I’m an editor now and these things only go to editors – complaints, PCC and otherwise, always wind up with newsdesk for input at some point.
The change is, I think, being driven by several factors, but the key points for me are:
* Far more visibility of what action you can take if you’re unhappy with your local media
* The fallibility of the press has never been more public, more discussed and more entrenched in people’s minds
* Greater searchability and longevity of potentially contentious content as search engines become more sophisticated and aggregators spread content further
Leveson demonstrates publicly how and why the Press makes mistakes, and there’s little distinction, for most people between national and regional; phone hacking arrests and court actions drive the message home as well.
Meanwhile, as more people realise their online footprints haven’t been erased by the sands of time, I foresee busy, and complicated, times ahead.