In Defense Of Slow News

from the a-hot-take-on-hot-takes dept

Many years back, I remember seeing Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, being interviewed about that site (which at the time was on its way to becoming the first “mainstream” tech news blog). I’m paraphrasing, and possibly misremembering, but what stuck with me was that he suggested that, as a blog, you basically had to focus on one of three things to succeed: being first, being funny, or being insightful. And he had chosen “being first” as the strategy for TechCrunch — trying to break news as quickly as possible. And while that makes sense as a business strategy if you can do it, it had absolutely no appeal to me for how we ran Techdirt. We always hoped to focus on adding more insight into various issues, than breaking news. That’s not to say we don’t break news every so often, but it’s certainly not the focus.

Last Thursday, I published a long post about the whole question of internet platforms cutting off certain users. While the actual title of the story was Platforms, Speech And Truth: Policy, Policing And Impossible Choices, it had a different title on our social media feeds:

If you can’t read that, it says, “You Kept Asking For A Post About Alex Jones And Internet Platforms, So Here It Is.” That was, in part, because while the various bans for Alex Jones all happened on Monday, our post didn’t go up until Thursday. And, as I noted in the post, I had actually begun writing the larger post before the Jones’ bans were put in place, but rather in response to a different brouhaha over a Mark Zuckerberg interview in July, where he said he didn’t want to ban Holocaust deniers from his platform.

And yet, we had a number of people in our comments and on social media asking why we weren’t writing about it. Sometimes those demands were done snarkily, suggesting we somehow were hiding from the subject. Sometimes they were asked legitimately. Some people seemed to take offense to the fact that we were working on other stories, as if we should drop everything to write about content moderation choices.

But, for years here on Techdirt, I’ve had a pretty strong belief in the value of “slow news.” That is, I think I take the opposite approach to the one that Arrington talked about all those years ago. Being first may have benefits in the race for traffic and clicks. But I’m not so sure it really adds value to society. As we’ve seen over and over again, the quick take — or the “hot take” — often gets key things wrong. If you have real news to break, that’s great, but it would seem to usually fall into one of two camps: a story that everyone is going to know about soon enough… or a story that you have exclusively. And, in both cases, there’s little reason for us to rush out a story in those cases. If everyone’s going to have it, then we might as well wait a bit to actually make sure all the details are really known and understood. And if there’s an exclusive, then why not take your time to make sure you fully understand it as well.

I know that in the traditional news business, there’s a premium put on “breaking news” and “exclusive!” type stories, but I’d rather put a premium on more thorough analysis that actually understands these issues. It’s what we’ve always tried to do, even if we don’t always succeed. Indeed, even when we write on key breaking stories, we’ll quite often sit on a completed post for at least 24 hours before putting it on the site, just to see how things shake out and if the initial “breaking” details are really accurate. I’ve found that that allows us to post more thoughtful and careful posts in the long run.

Again, this has long been our internal policy, but I thought it might be useful to publish it publicly, so that people understand why we might not immediately write about the hot topic of the day, and may wait until we’ve had more time to understand it, and think through an analysis that maybe others covering the story didn’t provide.

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Comments on “In Defense Of Slow News”

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38 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Slow news and relevance

I, for one, appreciate your tendency to insight vs speed. As you point out, there are some who perceive that your not jumping on ‘their agenda du jour’ as an intentional slight. Like your supposed to know what their ‘feelz’ are at all times, and should succumb to their every though, concern, or issue, at their will. As is continually pointed out to them, they can always start their own blog.

While your perspective with regard to ‘slow news’ is, I think, right for your blog, there is some potential to wait too long and loose relevance. That’s a balance. I think you do it well, even with some complaining that certain articles are ‘so last week’. They fail to understand that some issues remain relevant, until they are resolved. We have quite a few outstanding, unresolved issues that are ripe for periodic reexamination. Sometimes those reexaminations bring new perspectives, sometimes they merely rehash old arguments. But like with censorship, more speech is an appropriate answer.

Then, there is your perception of what it is you want to write about. In that, you can never be wrong, because it is what you want, not what others want, and they cannot absolutely and completely, know you. Some say not enough tech and too much dirt, or vise versa. Well, there are plethora other blogs to satisfy their needs, but they do not all offer the same ability to state their mind that Techdirt does.

Another way to look at the concept of slow news is related in the old saw ‘put mind in gear before engaging mouth’. Understanding what happened, taking a considered approach, posting thoughtful commentary rather than rushing to post ‘just the facts’ is a different way than some traditional journalism. More like news magazines than newspapers, at least in some cases. Faster isn’t always better. Neither is all editorial. While perspective is sometimes related in the articles on Techdirt, it is different than the editorial pages where a particular political/social agenda is pushed. For that, I thank you.

Ninja (profile) says:

A hybrid

I don’t think this model would work for TD mainly because of the way it is published (blog style) but I think news outfits could take a more hybrid approach by racing to have the breaking part and posting some kind of teaser clearly stating it is a developing issue that will have detailed follow ups and then go for the slow route providing insightful, in depth analysis. You know, report the known facts as soon as the news break in and highlight the murky parts for further development. And then do the further development. It seems like a pretty balanced way of having the hot stuff while also providing the slow cooked yummy bits.

Flakbait (profile) says:

Fast and first (and not helpful)

I’ve always had the feeling that the news outlets that trumpet they provide breaking news fast and first are just trying to score points at the expense of their competition, and convincing the audience that this is FUN! and EXCITING!!! and somehow to the audience’s benefit.

I’m a bit different, I guess, because I’ll take my breaking news as fast as accuracy allows.

Anonmylous says:

Yup

“I know that in the traditional news business, there’s a premium put on “breaking news” and “exclusive!” type stories, but I’d rather put a premium on more thorough analysis that actually understands these issues. “

That’s what guest analysts were originally for. That’s what news discussion programs were originally for, to fully explore the topic, its ramifications and repercussions, its impact on society, law, and daily life. Now they’re just another part of the clickbait machine and do no investigating deeper than “What have our corporate masters told us to say today?” as evinced by the incredibly outrageous clip-strings showing all the shows saying the exact same thing with the exact same words.

I bet the world is laughing at us, and I for one despise it. I unblocked ads on this site (and only this site) permanently months ago because I support the news reporting here. Sure its a bit slower, and on Monday I have like a dozen stories I am hoping to see TechDirt’s take on, and not all of them get covered. But what does get covered is thoughtful, accurate, and while it may have some bias, it tends to be in favor of the consumer/citizenry. And that’s ok by me.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

One might also note the HUGE number of corrections you’ve had to issue… er wait. I can remember like 1 maybe 2 and it was never done in 2pt font 27 pages away. You put it in bold type at the top & owned it b/c keeping our trust matters more than ego.

The first to press mindset seems to think they can just delete an article that later turns out to be well Theranos, and for a certain mindset that works. The problem is then you have these people spouting off PR passed around as news thinking it is real b/c getting the clicks mattered more than getting it right.

I know it can be maddening to be on the otherside who wants you to push a story, something something Prenda, but the word of 1 wackjob (but I’m feeling much better now) does not evidence make. While we had all kinds of ‘evidence’ y’all needed to make sure that we weren’t photoshopping & creating illusions. Then you discovered we were serious, this was real and way worse that anyone else wanted to admit.

Well researched, well constructed, well thoughtout stories are why we’re here. We might chomp at the bit sometimes, but often there is a detail that was overlooked elsewhere or a much different take that makes the reader stop, think, & reassess. Might not change minds (OHAI BLUE!!!) but gives a better rounded experience for visitors.

Anonymous Coward says:

RE-readability

One thing I value about TechDirt is that not only are the articles usually still timely when they come out, but I know that if I’m searching past blogs, I can trust the information to be factual and to reflect a wider position from the time they were written (ie: facts are presented as facts, and opinion is thought out and based on real sources).

When I try referencing old articles from “quick to publish” sites, I often find that the content is no longer available, is factually incorrect (based on later discoveries) and has not been corrected in the article, or has been modified anonymously since I first saw the article and no longer says what it originally said.

With TechDirt, I know that what I’m reading is what was always there.

Kudos; stick with Insightful and Funny please 🙂

Vidiot (profile) says:

I hear "slow news", and my mind jumps to a specific place – a service of the the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), in which the news reports of the day are read at an excruciatingly slow speed, enabling comprehension by high school language class washouts like me.

But I think there’s a slightly deeper "slow news" significance here, too: slower dissemination enables more complete comprehension, in both the language example and in a TechDirt arm’s-length review of a flash-bang "hot topic", one where nuance and more thorough understanding are fostered. I think a lot of us are nauseated by the "breaking news" culture, and "slow news" is the antidote.

ECA (profile) says:

Love the site.

I like this site for many reasons..
It Kinda consolidates what is called “Da news”

You Generally dont TRY to make 2-3-4-10 posts about the same thing..but it does happen.
You add, a touch of opinion with Facts..
You grab Important articles, Or consolidate Many into a way that is readable..
We are all, Learned of our own lives and understanding, and you try to keep it Said, in a way that is Legible and understood by all.( I would Hope)

You give me 1 site to find MOST of the news I look up or need to know.

Al Malgamated, In Dustry, Ohio says:

OR: poor judgment and slow-witted too.

Here you are, writing a defense instead of DOING.

Sheesh. It’s impossible to out-parody you.

This "blog" doesn’t rely on drawing readers is the key point. You recently stated that it does not get enough revenue to support four or five re-writers. — Even if they re-write for free, as your corporate-uber-alles notions aren’t popular, especially among pirates and techs!

I ‘splain the sloth as due to: You’ve chosen the fourth way: push agenda of globalism / corporatism. That limits topics and requires some care to get slanted right, especially to dodge mention of alternative views.

Besides that: does your measured pace preclude writing in advance a couple actual news pieces for each weekend day? You aren’t even meeting the pent-up demand of regulars to comment!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OR: poor judgment and slow-witted too.

I think Techdirt is interesting. It operates with complete disregard for many of its readers, who often vehemently challenge the the articles and the comments, and then are quickly censored. It (through it’s commenters, usually) then challenges the word “censored”, and points out the comments can be unearthed if one knows how. It actively chases off new readers who do not conform to the groupthink with slurs, epithets, and occasionally threats.

Then when the waters are calm and the offenders have vanished, Techdirt uses paid commenters and long time supporters to “fill in” one sided articles with seemingly thoughtful (albeit completely one sided and unchallenged) opinion. Any literate person reading the articles and comments is left with a head-scratcher about a culture that seems strange indeed to exist on a public forum. Mind numbing one sided drivel with a group that obediently reinforces the basic tenants of anything presented.

I think it’s interesting. It is hard to know what purpose it actually serves and who would actually pay for it and why. Maybe the head scratching results are used to indoctrinate others, giving them a “surface only” analysis of issues that affect a society. Maybe you could gather the articles up into a book about the absolute power of corporatism, censorship and all. Maybe it will serve as a lesson to future generations about how to create and publish one sided propaganda.

Or maybe it’s here to serve as target practice for those of us who enjoy pointing out how upside down and backwards the majority of views expressed are. Even I thank you, Mr. Masnick, for the recreational value of your product.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am bored and suffering from insomnia. Let’s have some fun!

It operates with complete disregard for many of its readers, who often vehemently challenge the the articles and the comments, and then are quickly censored.

If I had to guess, I would bet that the number of people who are regularly flagged in the comments sections of this site lands somewhere in the single digits. As for the “vehemently challenge” bit: Sure, you trolls “challenge” the content of the articles and certain comments, but all that means is that you either insult everyone, spout a bunch of empty prose meant to appear deep at first glance, or just say a bunch of nonsense to be nonsensical for the sake of it. That is not directly challenging the major point of a given article or comment—that is being an ass for no reason other than you want to go around destroying other people. It is the behavior of a sociopath.

It […] then challenges the word “censored”, and points out the comments can be unearthed if one knows how.

One, you are not censored if you are flagged; your comments have not been deleted, just hidden from automatic view, and Techdirt cannot actually stop you from copy-pasting those comments to other platforms. Two, viewing a flagged comment is as easy as clicking/tapping a simple link; if you cannot manage to do that, I cannot help you.

Then when the waters are calm and the offenders have vanished, Techdirt uses paid commenters and long time supporters to “fill in” one sided articles with seemingly thoughtful (albeit completely one sided and unchallenged) opinion.

If you think an opinion deserves to be challenged, you can either make proper, sincere comments that directly refute the basis for that opinion or write an article of your own and submit it for possible publication. You can challenge an opinion without insulting everyone or posting the equivalent of a child’s temper tantrum. Thad did that to me a few days ago, and I appreciated his doing it because it expanded my perspective on the issues discussed therein. Your posts only test my patience in withholding vulgarity. You do not create new perspective or offer meaningful insight to a given topic. All you do is troll.

Any literate person reading the articles and comments is left with a head-scratcher about a culture that seems strange indeed to exist on a public forum.

I am literate. Nothing about the comments sections here seems strange to me. If you have a dissenting point to make, make it without insults, and we will consider the argument on its merits. Or keep insulting us and implying everyone here but you cannot read, see how far that keeps you from being flagged. You do you.

Mind numbing one sided drivel with a group that obediently reinforces the basic tenants of anything presented.

Are you talking about Breitbart, InfoWars, or @dril?

It is hard to know what purpose it actually serves and who would actually pay for it and why.

What other people do with time and money that does not directly affect my life is none of my business. You might want to find something more meaningful to worry about.

Maybe the head scratching results are used to indoctrinate others, giving them a “surface only” analysis of issues that affect a society.

Again: You are free to offer meaningful comments on a given article or submit an article of your own. You can also keep choosing to whine about Techdirt’s editorial direction; the rest of us will challenge the writers with actual arguments when we disagree on a certain point.

Maybe you could gather the articles up into a book about the absolute power of corporatism, censorship and all.

Pay me six figures upfront and I will consider doing it. Otherwise, you can do it yourself.

Maybe it will serve as a lesson to future generations about how to create and publish one sided propaganda.

The Trump administration will be a far better teacher in that regard than Techdirt ever will.

Or maybe it’s here to serve as target practice for those of us who enjoy pointing out how upside down and backwards the majority of views expressed are.

Yes, some of us here hold views and opinions that would not be called “mainstream” in the here-and-now. My views on drugs (legalize and regulate all drugs), sex work (decriminalize it at the minimum), copyright (it needs a serious overhaul for the current day), and taxing the rich (being worth a billion dollars should be illegal) definitely mark me as someone outside of mainstream thought. I accept that and welcome arguments on those views, both for and against.

I do not, however, have to accept insults, empty drabble, and utter nonsense as an actual argument. Make better arguments than “oh Techdirt must be one-sided” if you want a dissenting view to be taken seriously. Back your opinions up with some form of insight; provide relevant facts and evidence (with proper citations) that lend credibility to those opinions; and stay on topic. When you can do that without the need for bad faith tactics, your comments will stand a far better chance of going unflagged. But until then, we will continue to mock you. You deserve nothing else.

…well, other than being stuck in an argument with me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yes that is the heart of the mystery surrounding Techdirt. What purpose does it actually serve, and who is paying for it, and why?

Most normal people with at least a high school education regarding history understand the cowardice and tyranny represented by censorship. It is persuasive to almost no one. It is intellectual surrender in public debates.

What is the return on investment in Techdirt, I wonder? It only seems to serve as an echo chamber of progressives talking to progressives, and running any other opinions out of town (after tar and feathering or silencing altogether). Who does it persuade that is not already persuaded?

One of life’s little mysteries.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Perhaps it helps to keep the coalition of the disenfranchised intact. For example, say you want to destroy the USA, much as the demonstrators in DC were recently chanting “No Borders, No Wall, No USA At All!”.

How to achieve “No USA At All”? Well, one way is to get turn the public against itself in the form of demonizing the police. The public needs the police to keep order, but if the public were to lose confidence in the police, havoc would erupt without anyone to protect the public at all.

So, having a “safe place” to go criticize the police and giving people the idea that it is a common view that police were bad would help serve that purpose.

I saw recently that Pocahontas tried to criticize the police, but then apologized, because the police called her out on it, and she is up for re-election, and needs their help (and votes). That was funny.

Maybe the same people that are paying the protesters to chant “No USA At All” are the ones paying Techdirt for their various versions of the same chant. That could explain it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Based on grammatical style, sounds like you’re the same person just using a VPN to change IP addresses.

What purpose does it actually serve

News commentary that many find to be insightful.

who is paying for it

Readers.

why?

Because they find it useful and insightful and want to support it so they can continue to read it?

Seriously, your entire first two sentences could be applied to literally anything, not just Techdirt.

Most normal people with at least a high school education regarding history understand the cowardice and tyranny represented by censorship.

I would hope so.

It is persuasive to almost no one.

I would hope it wouldn’t be persuasive.

It is intellectual surrender in public debates.

No, it’s definitely not surrender. It could be cowardice, but it’s actually just being a bully.

What is the return on investment in Techdirt, I wonder?

Enjoyment of writing and making a living?

It only seems to serve as an echo chamber of progressives talking to progressives

Then you obviously haven’t read any of the comments, and no I’m not counting you trolls. Also Citation needed.

running any other opinions out of town (after tar and feathering or silencing altogether).

Name one example where Techdirt did this in any of their articles.

Who does it persuade that is not already persuaded?

Lots of people. I know personally several people, some family members, who have changed their mind on tech topics after reading Techdirt’s articles, especially since Techdirt has an excellent habit of linking back to primary source material to back up their articles. Unlike some trolls I could mention. (hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

One of life’s little mysteries.

Mystery solved then. I’ve answered all your questions. Now we can get back to real mysteries, like why you, who purportedly can’t stand this site, continue to visit it and submit comments.

Finally, is that you Richard?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Long Reads vs Slow News

Other publishers seem to work one of two ways:
– race for scoops & offer hot takes
– write long form stories, like mag articles, a la Atlantic

It seems that, with the others, the only way to get deep thought, analysis, or research is that it must be associated with a looooong article. I do love those articles, but just cannot read many of them because of time constraints.

Overall, I prefer the Techdirt approach, analysis and thought, but retaining some brevity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps an unintended consequence is also that some news is kept in the news, rather than being out with the trash in the next 15 minute news cycle.

Also i am pretty sure that those who complain you aren’t writing something, or not publishings fast enough for their liking, or that your stories are “behind” or “old”, ate either being disengenuous, downright stupid, or they are hypocrites who complain about short attention span media.

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