Stop pretending the internet is a paper newspaper. There's lots of space so use it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here's yet another example of the internet being used as if it were a paper newspaper with limited space. It's a piece about Barack Obama's new ad in Spanish. In spite of the fact that some 40+ million people in the United States and another 400+ million people around the world know Spanish, newspapers online and sites like never include the Spanish language version of these ads, even when they are originally in Spanish.

"For the thousands of parents who are left unemployed, for all the families at risk of losing their homes, for each child of the 45 million people who don't have health insurance, how is it possible that John McCain could opine, 'The fundamentals of our economy are strong'?" asks the television ad's announcer in Spanish. "Perhaps John McCain and the Republicans don't want to preoccupy themselves with the prosperity of our families. But for us, there's no greater obligation."
Well if it's in Spanish, let's have a link to the ad's content in Spanish so that those of us that can read the language know how the ad actually sounds to the people it's made for. It's the internet and nobody is demanding that the ad fit into a certain space.

(yes, the original ad can be seen online but in order to discuss the content of the ad online or in an email you either have to put up a link to the original ad or type out the ad yourself)

Worse than this however is the difficulty one finds in actually obtaining the full text of a speech or comment that has been featured in a newspaper article. Here's one example.
In Vienna on Wednesday, an I.A.E.A. spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming told reporters at the agency’s headquarters, “There are no more seals and surveillance equipment in place at the reprocessing facility.”

She added that the North Koreans “also informed I.A.E.A. inspectors that they plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant in one week’s time. They further stated that from here on, I.A.E.A. inspectors will have no further access to the reprocessing plant.”

The White House quickly criticized North Korea’s step as "very disappointing." A spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said that a resumption of nuclear processing would "further isolate North Korea."
Here we have quotes from two sources, but no link to the original records of what was said. Three sentences from Melissa Fleming are featured above and the White House has a total of six words in the second part. I have no problem with a newspaper using quotes like this to write an article but I would like to see a source given for each one of the quotes so that people who want to see the rest of what was said can find it easily. It can take a long time to find sources for these statements, and usually involves a lot of creative Google searching with and without quotes.

Wikipedia has improved this somewhat of course, but one gets the distinct impression that many news sites are still operating under the unconscious assumption that there's a lack of space that simply doesn't exist when writing online. Shouldn't online content contain much more sourcing and resources for more information than paper newspapers?


Unknown said...

What you are saying is an instance of improperly borrowing the unwritten assumptions of a given genre to another genre because people often do not know any better.

This has a lot of connections to Applied Linguistics and to what means "proper language" and "proper communication" in practice.


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