Seattle Times Editor Speaks on the Digital World

Society Staff Writer | Emma McCallister

With new innovations and advances in technology taking place constantly, it is easy to chalk them up to just another part of the continuum of life. It is frequently overlooked that these aspects are playing a vital role in the world around us. This includes an important piece, which is how technology changes the way news is being created and how people are receiving their news.

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One man who does not overlook the importance of the digital frontier is Bob Payne, engagement editor of the Seattle Times. His job responsibilities include assisting with breaking-news coverage, managing blog strategies and large digital news projects and an array of other duties stemming from the digital sphere into the newsroom. Payne recently visited OU’s campus to discuss the digital world.”

In his discussion, Payne focused on pros and cons of the digital world, as well as how it continues to change the newsroom.

A major point Payne stressed to the audience was the impact the digital world has had and continues to have on the news. “If we don’t figure out ways to do the digital part, we’re going to have a problem,” Payne said. The importance of social media was a large focus of his discussion. Nowadays a vast amount of news is relayed via blogs, Twitter and Facebook. This type of news never occurred until recently. Social media allows news organizations to relay information to the public in more varying strategies than ever before. Moderator Lindsay Friedman posed the question, “So specific and creative is the game?” Payne said yes.

Because of these newfound outlets, news can be relayed faster to audiences than ever before. Now, rather than waiting for the next day’s newspaper to be printed, breaking news is brought to people immediately. These social media strategies have advantages for both the news outlets and for readers. By utilizing social networks it allows for “more of a voice” according to Payne. This includes a voice for the news outlet but for readers as well. Payne said that many articles The Seattle Times posts online get more than 3,000 comments a day. Payne continued in saying that digital readers expect to be able to share their thoughts. With more and more news organizations utilizing the digital world to relay stories, readers are able to do just that.

While use of social media platforms is positive for newspapers like The Seattle Times, Payne discussed several issues that he has come across. “The biggest challenge is time,” he said. Although there are now more ways to relay information to the public, it also comes with constraints. Payne brought up the point that even though they can have a larger amount of material on Facebook now, there will always be limited time to do so. Comments posted online from readers, while they are often not an issue, have been a particular challenge Payne said he has faced. Users who post negative, inappropriate or obscene comments are removed from the forum. The comments are monitored but this can also pose a challenge. People feel that they should be able to post whatever they like about a story and be protected under the First Amendment. Payne stated that this is not the case when it comes to a private company.

Although it can come with challenges, the digital world is expanding opportunities for newspapers and their readers. “We are always thinking about how to build a better digital platform,” Payne said. He continued in saying that more technology will drive more traffic and things will be different. “There will be a time when the only print paper in Seattle will be a Sunday edition.” As the digital world continues to change, so will the news and how people receive it. “Technology keeps it fresh.”