Jay Rosen just asked this on Twitter:
So how come no one’s writing about the odd and forbidding art of eluding the news when you want to watch a race on tape delay in prime time?
The answer I had when I was with The Baltimore Sun now seems quaint, based on what I’m seeing on most news sites this week.
Back then, we decided that, even though the result of an event was “news” in the strictest sense, it wasn’t exactly the kind of life-or-death news that we felt that site visitors absolutely had to get, no matter what. So we wrote home-page headlines that said the race had been run, but required the user to click through for the result. On the sports home page, though, we went with the results unfiltered. The thinking here was that anyone actively visiting a sports section during an Olympics should expect to see all of the most recent news in that category, but that more-casual visitors to the home page should at least be given the benefit of the doubt.
It came down to this: If someone has decided that they want to spend three hours in the evening, unspoiled, with the tape-delayed coverage, why should we ruin that for them?
This week, at The Sun, different rules are in place, as every result of hometown hero Michael Phelps is trumpeted on the home page the moment it’s known.
Given that such news is almost impossible to miss if you dip into Twitter or Facebook or your email for just a moment this week, doesn’t that make sense? Shouldn’t news organizations now just assume that everyone is spoiled and run with the story on the home page?
At the risk of sounding out of touch with the prevailing wisdom, no.
Yes NBC is blowing it on many key details, and they should have both live-streams online and the nightly recap, but they’re mounting a massive, two-week-long entertainment that, it turns out, a lot of people want to watch. The viewers all know they’re being “lied” to, that the result is long-settled and the athletes chilled out with their beverage of choice hours ago, but it’s how they’ve chosen to spend their evenings and, really, will a democratic society collapse if we make them click on one more link to find out the result as it happens?