If a story seems complex, we either put a specialized reporter on it or we give a general-interest reporter more time to understand the technical details. But running a newsroom is all about managing limited resources. Sometimes a non-science reporter gets thrown into a technical issue because the science reporter is unavailable. We try to hire flexible, curious, intelligent writers who are quick studies. I consider myself a general-interest journalist, but I’ve had science assignments, became a Middle East specialist, covered finance and economics, immersed myself in national politics, etc. Every journalist wears many hats and sometimes keeps one particular hat on long enough to become a certified specialist in a discipline.
Asked about a two-pronged approach comprising both news coverage and a blog, Yemma replied:
If we thought a blog would be effective at generating a following and we thought it was the best use of our limited manpower we wouldn’t hesitate to go in that direction. That’s not the case for us now.
That’s a reasonable response, of course, and more significant than it might seem at first glance. Over the last few years, it seems like it has become conventional wisdom in newsrooms that a blog is the best way to cover topics like the environment with limited resources, and perhaps it is. But The Christian Science Monitor is doing the industry a favor by at least questioning that notion.
Blogs are powerful tools, of course, but ideally they complement strong news coverage—they don’t substitute for it. As Yemma indicated, a lot depends on reader demand, but if the choice is between specialized blog coverage and general news coverage, editors might want to consider the latter. It may seem like an old fashioned approach for an outlet racing headlong into the Digital Age, but the news comes first.