Wednesday, November 17, 2010

London's Most Expensive: Or why I love and hate online journalism

What I love and hate about the internet and online journalism is the power it places in the hands of the readers.

I love it because sometimes the commentary by readers opens your eyes to the most curious ideas – ideas that that would have never occured to you. For example, when I wrote a blog about how Frieda Pinto is a fairly average-looking girl in India, I practically got assaulted by an American fan of hers in the commentary section. Her argument was that Pinto wasn’t Indian at all, but Latina, and that Indians in general were ugly and racist and hated Pinto.

Ok, so her language offensive. But I had never thought of Pinto as Latina-looking. But damn it, she is. I can see her playing Latina roles – if her acting chops are up to it – and make a successful Hollywood career out of it. But for the trenchant reader, I would have never thought of it.

But I hate it when readers point out factual errors in your story. For example, I recently wrote an article for the website Londonist on some of London’s most expensive experiences. One of them was London’s most expensive whiskey, and my research led me to a £740 double measure of whiskey at Albannach Bar at Trafalgar Square. My conclusion was based on other media reports, personal memory and internet research. And I thought how could one possibly trump £740 for a shot of whiskey?

Only, as one reader pointed out, Dorchester can. It offers a “Macallan 57 years in Lalique Crystal” for £870.

Thankfully, we were clever enough to put a rider at the end of the story asking readers to trump our finds. So we had already put the humble idea out there that our finds may not be the full and final truth.

Still, I hate being trumped. But as most literature on the future of journalism suggests, I should just get used to it.

Here's a little clip from Drop the Dead Donkey - a satirical series on journalism from its good ol' days in the '80s. Can you imagine any journalist getting away with it today!

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