People often ask us why the Independent doesn’t always cover certain stories that fill the daily papers and TV news — stories that punctuate everyday life and can be exciting. In particular, they want to know why we don’t put the breaking news updates online as soon as we have them, the way many other news organizations do.
The answer is partly about a fundamental difference between the way daily and weekly papers cover the news. Both of them, done well, bring valuable information to readers. The dailies warn you about imminent dangers and tell you about last night’s house fire, or where a road has been blocked off. They provide the who, what, when, and where of election results, government decision-making, and court rulings. That kind of reporting is helpful, interesting, and essential in a democratic society.
Daily journalists need to move quickly to collect facts. In just a few hours, the editors must look it over and off the story goes. So daily news gathering can leave little time for the most vital question in every tale: why?
Weekly publication gives reporters more time to ask questions and to think about the answers. At their best, weekly newspapers tell readers not just what happened but why it happened, and why it’s important. Not just that out-of-town visitors are being advised to self-quarantine, but the reasoning — or absence of reasoning — behind that advisory.
This week there were two local stories that made dramatic headlines: the search for two missing kayakers, which ended tragically, and a series of attacks at Herring Cove Beach by an aggressive coyote. The effort that would have been required to follow those stories hour by hour and post updates online — much as they might have generated web traffic for the Independent — would have actually undermined our real purpose.
We struggle as it is to produce thoughtful, well-researched news and feature stories of real significance in a coherent package once a week. Racing to compete with other news outlets that devote resources to instant online reporting would stretch us to the breaking point.
We think it’s more important to wait and ask why that coyote behaved in such an unnatural way than to get the raw facts of its attacks out on the internet as fast as possible. The answer — that animal lovers who feed coyotes end up unknowingly habituating them to people and making them dangerous — leads to more questions and, we hope, a more informed conversation in the community.