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The Need for Speed and its Impact on Accuracy

All communications/PR professionals know that speed is a job requirement in this industry, but speed and accuracy don’t necessarily always go hand in hand.

In my first year here at NST, I was given the nickname “Maverick” (a nod to the fighter pilot in Top Gun) by our resident quality control guru for focusing on speed, and at times overlooking details in my writing. But through our internal writing workshop, three-step quality control process and subtle reminders from Mike Rose (see photo), I’ve kicked my nasty little habit. But it appears, I’m not alone.

My not-so-subtle reminder to take the time needed to write effectively and accurately.
My not-so-subtle reminder to take the time needed to write effectively and accurately.

In order to remain competitive in the increasingly crowded media landscape, the race to be the first outlet to cover breaking news is cutthroat – and the proliferation of social media has only heightened the importance of speed when it comes to reporting.

But does speed come at a cost? That’s what the folks at the Columbia Journal Review wanted to find out. The magazine took a look at 665 consumer magazines and surveyed the outlets regarding their editing/fact checking practices and profitability of their Web sites.

The findings left many a mouth agape during our weekly staff meeting, where this information was initially shared with the NST team.

Here are some of the survey results we found interesting:

  • Only one-third of the Web sites were profitable.
  • 48 percent of outlets had less stringent standards when copy editing online articles versus print.
  • 11 percent of outlets didn’t copy-edit their online articles at all.
  • The majority of the magazines surveyed applied the same fact-checking standards to both print and online articles, but 27 percent were less stringent with online articles and 8 percent didn’t fact check online content at all.
  • Another 8 percent of responding magazines didn’t fact check either their print or online articles.
  • Regarding corrections, 45 percent of the Web sites changed factual errors without notifying site visitors about the correction.

Naturally, these findings make us question the standards used for online reporting, but researchers seem happy to simply shed light on the issue for now. As communications professionals, it means we all need to continue our diligence to ensure accuracy and monitor coverage closely to protect our clients’ best interests. Even if it means slowing down and turning in “your wings.”

(And for a little dose of nostalgia – Top Gun: The Need for Speed)

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