08 October 2008

Story Process Laid Bare By Wired

Wired.com has opened up its editorial process to the public through a profile piece on film-maker Charlie Kaufman.

Visitors to the website are able to follow the evolution of the article - from the original idea and pitch through to the interview, writing, editing and design stages.

The “profile of a profile” is the brainchild of senior editor Jason Tanz and is based upon the idea of “radical transparency”.

Guest blogging on reportr.net, Tanz explains the notions behind the experimental piece: “At Wired, we’ve written about the notion of “radical transparency,” in which companies air their inner deliberations online and thereby create stronger relationships with their customers.

“When it came time to write my Kaufman profile, I suggested something similar: Let’s post everything that went into the pitching, writing, editing, and design of this story.”

So among the information shared with the audience via blogs are audio files with a “lightly edited” version of the full interview with Kaufman, edits of drafts, fact-checking notes and proofreading changes.

The blogs reveal the team of workers behind the finished article and each of them – from the writer to the photo editor to the designer – writes a post explaining their part in the process.

In addition, the main blog now has a full pdf version of the final article available for view several weeks before it will appear in print.

According to Tanz, the experimental profile is a way to bring journalists out from hiding behind “our objective voice”.

He writes: “We present ourselves as all-knowing seers, delivering the truth from the mountaintop, when really our product - like any - is the product of humans making decisions.”

Tanz concludes: “The underlying questions that we’re trying to address - how do we connect to readers and engage them in our process and our product - are ones we’re sure to keep asking.”

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