Monday, October 02, 2006
Why we need human editors
This image from the UNC-Chapel Hill site illustrates what happens when news aggregators run wild and unchecked. Here are a few troubling things about this:
  • The headline style is inconsistent: Up or down? Pick one and stick with it.
  • The story links are redundant.
  • Editorials, op-eds or analysis pieces (assuming that's what the Woodward story is) are not labeled as such.
  • The Kiss headline is baffling. It turns out that the story has only one paragraph about a dispute over royalties, so the headline is also a bait and switch.
  • The Ivory Coast headline has an odd list at the end for no apparent reason.
  • The headline on the Vegas school story needs a semicolon.
A human editor could bring sense and reason to this mess. This is why copy editing and news judgment need to be as important and valued on the Web as they have been in print.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 4:46 PM | Permalink |


  • At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Francesca

    I think you proved, by clicking on the Kiss link, that the "headline" did its work... Links on a Web page serve a much different purpose than headlines in a newspaper. And, I think the fact that the Woodward item is included in the same group -- and probably got as many, if not more, clicks than the Kiss link -- shows how little most Web readers care about the distinction between "news analysis" and "news."

  • At 1:56 PM, Blogger Andy Bechtel

    I agree that some headline considerations change depending on the medium. What may work in print may not work as well online.

    Some common values, however, trump those considerations. For example, a headline should deliver what it promises. This is my objection to the Supreme Court headline — the story was about something completely different, with the Kiss angle relegated to one paragraph at the end of the story. The fact that people clicked on it doesn't justify its fundamental dishonesty.

  • At 2:35 PM, Anonymous BrianR

    Didn't humans write the headlines that you found in this aggregator? By the title of this post are you saying the software is at fault? How did the “news aggregators run wild and unchecked”? Its just software run by people. Did the people using this tool not use good judgement? Its totally possible. :)

  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger Andy Bechtel

    Brian, those are good questions. Obviously, there was some human involvement in the process, but what I would advocate is a "macro" view from an editor to oversee accuracy and consistency in aggregators.

    As it is, aggregators often convey a haphazard and redundant approach. The big question is what role human editors should play in their operation.