Didn't anyone ever tell you, "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet"? Or maybe it was, "You can't believe anything you read on the Internet." Anyway, same thing apparently goes for online versions of magazines.
A new study by the Columbia Journalism Review shows a gap between how the same magazines handle editing and fact-checking, depending on whether the publication will end up in the hands or on the screens of readers. Stephanie Clifford broke it down in The New York Times.
"Survey Finds Slack Editing on Magazine Web Sites":
Copy-editing requirements online were less stringent than those in print at 48 percent of the magazines. And 11 percent did not copy-edit online-only articles at all.
A similar trend held with fact-checking. Although 57 percent of the magazines fact-check online submissions in the same way they fact-check print articles, 27 percent used a less-stringent process. And 8 percent did not fact-check online-only content at all. (The other 8 percent did not fact-check either print or online articles.)
In its summary, the CJR notes that "virtually every significant magazine" in the United States is online, as are many others around the world. Got to be interactive to reach new readers who won't drop $3.95 at a newsstand. Of course, like a lot on the Internet, that shit gets crazy.
Although those involved with magazines and their Web sites have varying levels of knowledge and sophistication about their métier, it’s fair to say that the proprietors of these sites don’t, for the most part, know what one another is doing, that there are no generally accepted standards or practices, that each Web site is making it up as it goes along, that it is like the wild west out there.
(Points for métier, CJR. You totally earned that John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation cash. They should be happy with your 58-page report, although, seriously, the pie charts. @_@)
Mind you, the CJR study was looking at online versions of magazines. Even with a shitload of MacArthur Foundation money, who wants to get dirty trying to assess copy-editing and fact-checking at blogs. But that's where common sense comes in. Know what you're looking at, what motivations are behind the words. Political slants, advocacy journalism, selling something, sucking up to advertisers or benefactors. It all figures in.
Some of those things are obvious, some hit you in an "oh shit" moment, others come through that junior high school essay exercise: compare and contrast. And sometimes, all you have to do is click.