The first commandment of journalism: Be F.A.S.T.

We had a group of visitors to our newsroom-  business types, not journalists – and they started asking me about our online operations.

One of our guests was most interested in the monitoring I do of traffic to our sites, examining what our readers are interested in, and how I watch our competitors’ websites throughout the day.

“Why is it important to be first?” he asked.

I was dumbfounded. I’m naturally quite competitive, so I couldn’t think of anything anyone might want to be but first.

As I gathered my thoughts to explain, he expanded his question: “What does it really matter if I read a news story on your site, or if I read it at [our competitor] first and then on yours 10 minutes later?”

“Well,” I said, “Our reputation is built on being first. If we’re first all the time, you’ll stop going to [our competitors] website.” I then continued on to explain search engines a bit and being first there.

I really wish I had a mulligan on this one. I would have loved to have added that being first has always, always been the name of the game in journalism from the early days of boys hocking an evening paper on a street corner. The web hasn’t changed any of that.

Really, the first commandment of good journalism is to be F.A.S.T:  First, Accurate, Smart, and Timely. Twitter doesn’t change that while you want to be first out of the gate with the story, you still need to be right, and to know the context/importance of the news.

Ride by those rules and you’ll win the race.

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One thought on “The first commandment of journalism: Be F.A.S.T.

  1. I am not sure I agree. First was key when there was a limited number of outlets and a true mass audience, neither of which holds today. I also am not sure what exactly is meant by ‘ride by those rules’ and you will win the race. What is win the race? Survive and prosper? By what standards? And in a world on increasing pay walls? I have a digital subscription to the New York Times, I don’t go there because they are first. I heard of the North Korean launch failure hours before I went to the Times but I went to the Times because they had. The best most comprehensive account. And they will stay with the story.

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