After four days of the Guardian’s “web first” policy Harriet Sherwood, the foreign editor, today (Saturday) writes about the “modest start” they have made. In the Editor’s week slot she says the significance should not be underestimated. “We have crossed a line — and two things are inescapable: other newspapers will follow, and there is no going back,” she says.
There have been some problems with processes set up in advance not quite fitting reality and practical issues which had not been anticipated. But that was to be expected. The new “web first” policy only affects foreign and City desks at present and some commentators such as Steffen Fjaervik in his rather doubting post at the Poynter Institute have ignored the implications of this.
Foreign and financial news often cannot be used in a London-based paper until long after the event. Sherwood points out that on Wednesday they were able to post on Guardian Unlimited their story on the release of Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir from an Indonesian jail at 11.15am. The copy would have been old by the time it could appear in the following day’s printed edition.
Stories from Asia, Africa and the Middle East are most likely to be published earliest in the UK day. Sherwood says reporters in those areas are getting used to a different pattern of working. And she is adamant that quality will not be sacrificed for speed.
I expect there will be a lot more organisational, quality and commercial issues to be faced in the coming weeks and, inevitably, turf skirmishes if not wars.