Election shows up the limitations of print

I think today it seemed (at least in Ireland) that newspapers took another step towards becoming a thing of the past.

Out of the three broadsheets in Ireland, one had declared Barack Obama the winner of the New Hampshire primary and two decided he was ‘poised’ for victory.

By the time people handed over their €1.70 to buy a copy of The Irish Times this morning they could have thrown the stories about the US presidential primaries into the bin, because most of the information was completely outdated. And the headline gambles on the three main broadsheets were all wrong.

Here’s how the broadsheets led with the story this morning:

-Quoting exit polls the Irish Examiner led with the headline: ‘Obama deals Clinton second blow in crucial poll’.

-Reporting on the basis of what people said on the way into polling stations the Irish Independent settled on this headline: ‘Poll surge leaves Obama poised for second victory’.

-Like the Irish Independent, the Irish Times used information from people on the way into vote and they went with: ‘Obama poised for second win in New Hampshire’.

The problem is print has a deadline and news often breaks late leaving you in an impossible position. Obviously this type of thing happens quite often, but it was just so blatant today.

I consume a lot of news online, but I also enjoy reading at least one newspaper a day…and haven’t given up on the medium yet (though today I came close). I think the only strategy newspapers can take is to pursue more analysis and in-depth reporting. The type of in-depth coverage you don’t want to read on a computer screen. They need to steer clear of the inverted pyramid-straight news story formula as much as possible because it is just not going to cut it for that much longer.

But the question remains: if you were an editor what would you do when you have to go to print and you know the news is going to break after the ink has dried?

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