When the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords happened, the Arizona Republic, a newspaper with a little over 300 staffers, had to race against time, as well as a tidal wave of national outlets, to report on the incident. Randy Lovely, the paper’s Vice President and Editor, spoke to the Columbia Journalism Review about how it dealt with the incident.
Lovely discusses the chaos that came with the false report that Giffords was dead, saying that because they couldn’t confirm where the report came from, it made the paper even more cautious about what information it released. Lovely also says that the advent of social networking has posed new obstacles to newspapers when breaking news:
Our biggest challenge as an industry in trying to sort all this out is: how do we deliver that message in a way that readers and users understand this is what we know at this moment? And when we change it, we need to be transparent in the fact that we are correcting information that we had earlier, that we now know is not 100 percent accurate. I think because the public has such an insatiable demand for instant news, they also have a willingness to understand that we may not be 100 percent.
One of the advantages Lovely cites is that being a local paper, the Republic already had many established sources, so confirming information was easier for the paper than for a national media outlet.
The Giffords incident highlights how the Arizona Republic and all newspapers are expected to do more with less. With no changes to that coming soon, the papers that adapt more quickly will live on, the ones that don’t, won’t.