Overload revisited

What is it about the news online that is so depressing? So much stuff. So few opportunities for deep engagement. Artless video, a river of tweets, maddening pre-roll ads before videos, slapped together photo essays. Well crafted thoughtful journalism is out there, to be sure. But I’m afraid it’s become as rare as a good tomato in December.

I’m reminded of a fine article from the Columbia Journalism Review by Bree Nordenson, and this passage in particular:

The tragedy of the news media in the information age is that in their struggle to find a financial foothold, they have neglected to look hard enough at the larger implications of the new information landscape—and more generally, of modern life. How do people process information? How has media saturation affected news consumption? What must the news media do in order to fulfill their critical role of informing the public, as well as survive? If they were to address these questions head on, many news outlets would discover that their actions thus far—to increase the volume and frequency of production, sometimes frantically and mindlessly—have only made things more difficult for the consumer.

And so, as I head back to work at American Public Media next week, I’ll return with missionary zeal to put the customer first. If we can’t give a strong answer to the question “Why do people need this?” then we shouldn’t do it. More information isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s worse. If information lacks context, and we don’t craft it in a way that it can lock in to people’s minds, then we’re doing our audience a disservice.

Let’s collectively snap from our industrial, assembly-line, feed-the-beast mindset, get back to our workbenches and hammer out journalism that matters to people. Stories that raise hackles, turn heads, spur a response. We owe it to the people we serve. And, hell, we owe it to ourselves. It’s a lot more fun to create really excellent journalism than it is to shovel more commodified content into the maw of the all-consuming news beast.

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One thought on “Overload revisited

  1. 1: “journalism that matters”: I have seen so many newspapers in the fight to increase their reach by pure numbers (page impressions) instead of quality of content that they lost touch with their readers’ base and therefore – probably – they are determined to … vanish.

    2: “Why do people need this?”: yes, indeed. I’m sometimes missing the depth in the majority of articles, the real dark blue, and I’m missing the journalists feeling uncomfortable if they do NOT digg into the obvious questions no one wants to ask … and maybe only a minority would pay for.

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