Wikipedia defines ‘good enough’ this way: The principle of good enough (sometimes abbreviated to POGE) is a rule for software and systems design. It favors quick-and-simple (but potentially extensible) designs over elaborate systems designed by committees. (Though not a fan of Wikipedia, it does on occasion demonstrate a bit of utility.)
That definition may work in the world of software engineering (and may explain buggy software), but for me it doesn’t work in the profession of journalism.
A couple of years ago a colleague and I engaged in a long and rather heated debate over the concept of ‘good enough’ as it relates to journalism and in particular the dissemination of gathered information on the Internet.
As director of content for our group he insisted that ‘good enough’ is always good enough for posting on the Internet. Always. Grasp that word. No matter the topic or the situation or the content of the posting, ‘good enough’ is always good enough.
As a lowly publisher – and former reporter and editor – my insistence that the concept of ‘good enough’ shortchanges our Internet audience and diminishes our credibility fell on deaf ears. “They want immediacy,” he would calmly note, even as the veins in the forehead almost burst. “They don’t care about anything else.”
I fully understood his notion that ‘good enough’ as it relates to the depth of factual information in a breaking news situation is indeed good enough. You add facts as they become available. For me, there’s a key word: Facts.
He, however, continued with the drum beat of putting whatever information/innuendo/rumor up, then correcting later if necessary as the story develops. Others stand in that drum line with him.
I do not.
As journalists battle credibility issues, we do ourselves no favors in the public eye by throwing garbage up online. A dearth of facts but a truckload of (many to be later unsubstantiated) rumors shine a dim light on individual journalists, news organizations and the industry as a whole. The public paints us with a broad brush, in case you hadn’t noticed.
I also see the dump of alleged factual information – damn the accuracy – as potentially dangerous is some situations. When we place people in danger, it’s safe to believe their trust quotient drops precipitously. Not good for our integrity.
But in my mind it gets even worse when ‘good enough’ extends to our writing and grammar.
The adversary referred to above sloughed off this argument, too, saying the public would be forgiving of bad writing and poor grammar skills.
OK, I’ll buy that to a point in the most extreme circumstances. I’ll cite the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an example of a time when Joe Public might have forgiven a misspelling or poor grammar just to get the latest news.
I, however, see that as the exception rather than the rule.
Mr. Content didn’t agree. He made no distinction. Again, there are others in his camp.
With journalism in a time of extreme flux on so many levels, this is not the time to shove quality off the front row and into the cheap seats. Quite to the contrary, it is a time to ramp up our quality at every turn.
If we continue to believe in journalism and believe journalism matters, ‘good enough’ should rarely be good enough.