First Post! So What?

News organizations have long been in a contest to see who could report news before who. In the process, a careful balance is struck between trying to deliver fresh content and waiting long enough to verify sources and let the story play itself out for a bit. Still, it seems that the information age drive to be first to press has caused more premature non-news stories than ever. This also seems to be spilling over into the world of blogs. Granted, some blogs thrive on content so fresh it's still mooing. (See Engadget.) In the realm of politics, however, freshness is not all it's cracked up to be.

Almost all stories in politics are works in progress. When a big story first breaks, there's usually not enough content or rumination yet to fully form an opinion. Even so, too many of us feel the pressure to post something about the issue and do it NOW, maybe before we've even taken some time to digest it. It's like we somehow think that the issue at hand is going to have gone stale if we wait a few days before writing about it.

Those few days are crucial, but for an entirely different reason. In the two to three days after a major story hits (the Supreme Court decision about vouchers is a good recent example), most of the major papers have written their editorials and published their letters from readers. In the case of the Tribune and Herald, participants also have the chance to weigh in on those stories directly. Bloggers also have time to post their own thoughts both on their own blogs and on the blogs they read. Frequently, many of them will make excellent points that were not present when the original story broke. By taking the time to gather additional resources, you benefit from a meteoric increase in post quality.

You also can't gloss over the benefits of having all of your thoughts on a topic in one given space. If you're in a rush to post soon after a story breaks, you could very well end up with dozens of posts about the exact same thing with only minor difference between them. This is a disservice to readers and to yourself by appearing to beat a dead horse. As much as I enjoy reading content from them, Utah Amicus and SLC Spin seem to be in a "worst offenders" category on this issue. (I can cut Ethan some slack since he *is* from the media and is pretty used to doing it.) Mentally fatiguing readers and commenters is bad policy and will often lead to a lack of participation.

Lastly, giving yourself time to digest a news story may help temper some of your initial angry reactions to it. Writing in anger is a sure-fire way to do something you'll regret. Just ask Steve Urquhart on that one. Thankfully, he was willing to admit that he did something rash and owned up to it. (I had to do the same thing back in October when I mistakenly sent an e-mail to the wrong address. Whoops.) Angry writing not only means you're likely to say something you'll later regret, but it will also lead you to employ a writing style that is confrontation rather than persuasive, accusatory instead of conciliatory and rash instead of reserved. None of these things makes your case or is likely to set you apart as being a thoughtful participant rather than a reactionary malcontent.

I know it feels pretty awesome to be riding high on the initial ripples of a story. I've posted more than one comment at Slashdot that only got recognition because I was posting in the first 15 minutes of discussion. However, you're more likely to contribute something positive to the discussion if you'll take the time to digest it first.

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