19. Developing multimedia information

Online, even the definition of an article is different than on other forms of media. From a simple Tweet to in-depth analysis, an online multimedia article is an information process that changes and develops over time and requires constant revisions by journalists.

Online, an article is never finished

The internet is a continually flowing form of media that never stops. Unlike television and radio (which are also continually flowing forms of media), there are no set broadcast times, undoubtedly because the internet emerged in the age of globalisation, where the news changes 24/7. In practice, this means that news can be published at any time, from morning to night. It is not necessary to “hold back” a piece of news, even if there is more traffic at some times than at others.

It is not uncommon for a piece of news to start with a simple link to a 140-character Tweet. Such was the case with the death of Michael Jackson, the first announcement of which was a message put out on Twitter by a pure-player news site specialising in the lives of celebrities:

“URGENT — announces that Michael Jackson has been taken to Los Angeles hospital following a cardiac arrest”.

Within 24 hours of that Tweet, Twitter traffic doubled and Facebook traffic tripled, an indication of the space taken up by conversations after such news. The next day, the world’s largest daily newspapers were able to offer a comprehensive obituary to their readers. Two years later, the doctor who treated the star in the hours before his death was tried and convicted by a Los Angeles court. This story is a good illustration of the concept of a developing article, in which the content is added to as the news develops, including over longer periods.

How should successive amendments be included?

One of the key challenges of online journalism is to make such permanent changes to the news visible and concrete. It is therefore essential to provide a date (day, year and time of publication) and a precise categorisation (tag) of the content, as that enables internet users to identify it. It also gives a real value to your archives. Each time that Michael Jackson’s death returns to the forefront, this content will be “called upon” by search engines and read (or re-read) by web users.

In such a context, it is imperative that journalists agree to abide by two rules:

  • acknowledging that an error was made after it is reported by an internet user, and
  • making that error visible, specifying the amendments in the footer of the article.

This asceticism will increase the respect you receive from your readers and will increase the humility of your fellow journalists.