I often see cases of Internet news where there's no reconciliation for what's gone before and what's newly arrived. That training for me - which was absolutely brutal and I was terrified - was so important, especially later in life when one was faced with conflicting stories and conflicting evidence.
The credibility of a newspaper or news magazine is essential so you can check it for accuracy. I'm not saying it's not valuable. One can make a case for just running everything. Just run it! That's one of the advantages of the web, you can run everything - but you don't help the reader find out what's important.
I had been at the newspaper for a few months. It wasn't regarded as the paper, it was their paper. There was a sense of community because they reported, we reported, I reported the little things, the whist drives, the weddings, the funerals, the little speeches. In one sense it was the most boring copy in the world to anyone picking it up, but, on the other hand, it was crucial to the people who lived in those communities.
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I think there's a lot of benefit in letting people vent. When I was on the Manchester Evening News, we got 500 letters a day, and part of my job as editor was to edit them. And I thought that was one of the best things in the newspaper, and it was instituted by an editor known as Big Tom, who said 'this is the voice of the people.' And he was quite right.
[The web] is going to end up being a tremendous advantage, providing we can work out the financial structure. I think we'll see newspapers survive, being printed at home. Or you'll have a local print shop, so that rather than waiting for the newspapers to arrive by truck, which is 30 percent at least of a newspaper's cost, you'll go in and push a button, and it will take your dollar bills without anyone having to be there. And it will print the newspaper for you while you wait. It will take seven minutes. There's a terrific future for print in my view and it gives me great heart.
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I wrote about Bosnia at the time. Somebody looked out their window and saw gangsters coming down the street and doing ethnic cleansing. I said that was the thing that would happen in the future, someone phoning in what they were seeing on the scene. Whether it's the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Drudge Report or the BBC, all those reports, you have to assume there's a real person [who] has credibility.
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The 'gatekeepers' became a term of revile. But when you think about the flow of information, I personally value immensely the calibration a news organ, whether it's on the web or in print, brings to the floodwaters of information. I haven't the time to read all the dispatches of the Associated Press, for example. It's fantastic what they put out, it's extremely good, from all over the world. I like when someone acts as a filter.
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This impressed me when I was the editor of the Sunday Times [of London] - we had the "Bloody Sunday" killings of 13 unarmed civilians by British paratroopers. We interviewed 500 people for our report, and not one of them could give us a total picture of what was happening. It was like the Rashomon effect multiplied a million times. For a website or even a newspaper to be a collector of information flow is not the highest form of journalism.
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People were murdered for the camera; and some photographers and a television camera crew departed without taking a picture in the hope that in the absence of cameramen acts might not be committed. Others felt that the mob was beyond appeal to mercy. They stayed and won Pulitzer Prizes. Were they right?
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It's a fascinating time, I think. I do believe that with all the qualifications I've said - [such as] the uncertain accuracy of the web - nonetheless the access to speeches, documents is unparalleled with the ease of gathering information. If I had had that access when I was an editor or coming up, it would have made my life so much easier. As it was, everything took so much longer.