We are starting to see what Local World chief executive David Montgomery's vision for content uploaded direct to his websites without need for "human interface" looks like.
The piece uploaded by Torquay Police to the Herald Express highlights some of the shortcomings in the plan.
It appears in the crime section of the website alongside all the professionally-produced stories. But it falls some way short of the editorial standard readers would expect.
The language used is cumbersome police-speak: "All of these types of crimes are really preventable, we will always investigate these crimes to the best of our ability but if you protect your valuables in the first place it allows us to concentrate on other crimes."
And it contains typos and one potential legal. The alleged thief, clearly identifiable in the picture, has evidently already been convicted in the eyes of Torquay Police. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there is an innocent explanation for his actions. Do a few typos and a legal (which in any case would probably be covered by police privilege) matter?
In bald commercial terms I think they do. A higher standard of English and journalism attracts a higher standard of advertiser.
Montgomery is on to something with his ideas about providing more self-serve content that falls outside what we would normally view as journalism. I'm told that on one newspaper website an automatic feed providing the tide times is among the most well read sections.
But if you are going to give non-journalists access to your content management system perhaps that content should have its own section with some clear health warnings for the reader. Otherwise it risks dragging down the standard of everything else you are trying to do.
UPDATE: My understanding is that Local World plans for content like this to appear in a different part of its websites in future and only to be moved across into the main editorial side if journalists deem it worthy. In that case it would be sub-edited. The belief at Local World is that by allowing police to self-publish reasonably humdrum stories like this, journalists are freed up to do more important work.
On the legal side, I understand that the belief inside Local World is that publishers are protected from legal issues arising from user-generated content under the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 – provided they aren't moderating it.
Here's the Herald Express story with my highlights:
Your local Torquay Town Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team is asking for you [your] help in identifying the man in this picture.
On the 12th February 2014 at 11:15am in Torquay Central Library Lymington Road the man stole a canvas bag [allegedly]that had been left unattended on the floor while the victim was distracted. Although nothing of major value was taken it is clear that there is an opportunist thief at work. You [your] local policing team is keen to identify this male [police speak] who was wearing a two tone [hyphen needed] brown fleece and grey flat cap at the time of the incident.
It is also a timely reminder [what's timely about it? – this whole paragraph now slips from news into comment] for everyone that leaving any valuable item unattended gives a thief the opportunity to commit crime. Keep phones, wallets and other valuables with you at all times. Never leave a wallet on top of a counter while paying for goods in shops or supermarkets as this has been a crime we have seen lately across Torbay. On a daily basis we get reports of mobile phones being stolen especially in pubs and clubs after owners leave them to go to the bar.
All of these types of crimes are really [pedantic, but dreadful word to see in a news story] preventable, we will always investigate these crimes to the best of our ability but if you protect your valuables in the first place it allows us to concentrate on other crimes.
If you are able to help in identifying this person please call 101 and quote crime number FT/14/1005 or you can always ring anonymously to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.