ONLINE vs. PRINT….Thomas Lang at The Campaign Desk has a genuinely interesting piece today about the difference between the print and online editions of major newspapers. I already knew that online editors have a fair amount of autonomy in deciding what kind of play to give stories ? I’ve noticed in particular that the New York Times web edition seems to play up exactly the kinds of stories that bloggers and politics junkies are most interested in ? but it turns out there’s a lot more to it than that:

The Web operations of most major papers represent worlds unto themselves. Just as newspapers have foreign news desks and sports desks, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times now have quasi-autonomous “continuous news desks” (called the extended news desk at the Los Angeles Times), staffed with editors and reporters dedicated to providing up-to-the-minute news coverage on the Web.

The editors of these continuous news desks start off their mornings by identifying the major stories of the day and contacting the print reporters assigned to those stories. Ideally the print reporter agrees to cover the event for the continuous news desk….Robert McCartney, assistant managing editor of, says this is the “first choice always” because it brings the Website “credibility, knowledge, context, and sources that readers trust.”

….These continuous news stories go up on the various Websites and are identified with time stamps and special URLs….The various newspapers identify the difference between continuous news stories and print editions various ways — but the sites offer no clear guidance to help the reader make that distinction. The presumption seems to be that readers will figure it out for themselves.

Read the whole thing. It turns out that even reporters themselves are not always sure how things work at their newspapers, and the editors of the online versions are woefully mistaken about whether TV and radio personalities rely on the print edition or the online edition. It’s an enlightening article.

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