Lots of reaction, both pro and con, to my riff yesterday on how radical transparency could apply to media. As is always the case, it pointed out some places where I should have been more clear or nuanced, as well as some places where I'm probably just wrong. Here are some quick expansions/clarifications, which should have been self-evident but clearly weren't:
- This obviously couldn't apply to most of the stories. Open research and editing only makes sense for a certain kind of article, one that is highly thesis-led and involves a lot of research and collection of examples. The vast majority of Wired stories aren't that--they're either too short to make an open process worthwhile, too "voice-driven" to risk the cost to stylish writing of too many contributors, or are based on the narrative form, which also works best with a singular vision.
- Although open research can generate useful reader input at any stage, experience shows that the writing itself is best done as a solo effort and open editing only really works pretty late in the game, after most of the heavy lifting (from architecture and scope to clarity and style) has already been done by a professional editor. We've found that open editing can improve a good piece by catching small errors or suggesting additions and example that make the case even better, but it can't save a piece that needs a lot of work.
- These techniques works better for relatively short-form web media than they do for the print magazine. That's mostly because magazine features tend to be long (2,500-10,000 words) and wrapped up in a package heavy with art and design. Long-form journalism is more about narrative and story arc, which is really best done as a close collaboration between a writer, editor and designer.
Note that in my own case, although I shared most of the book research and many post-length draft passages on this blog, almost all of the actual writing and editing was done as God intended, head down at Starbucks with headphones on. For writing and editing long-form prose, focus is everything.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some smart amendments and additions to this here.