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The Story is Just Not Enough Anymore


Image representing Knight Foundation as depict...

Image via CrunchBase

Mona Zhang wrote an article on Thursday for Media Bistro called, “Newton to Journalists:  Focusing on the Story Just Isn’t Enough Anymore”.

According to her article, the distrust of the media by Americans is at an all time high.  She writes, “In the digital age, journalists are required to don different hats; from multimedia to social media, there is an increasing amount of tools available for telling the story and sharing it. Still, it may not be enough.”

Zhang also mentions that Eric Newton, the senior adviser to the president of the Knight Foundation, spoke at the Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting.  Newton told the group of investigative reporters that just telling the story is not enough.  Zhang says,

“…he [Newton] has spent his entire life worshiping the mantra, “The story is all that really matters.”  Until now. “The story is not the only thing that matters,” he said. “A story by itself does not change the world. Someone must absorb it, share it, act on it and yes, even pay for it.” In order for stories to truly matter, he argues, news literacy is key, as is transparency, which can help facilitate dialogue and understanding within communities. “Sixty nine percent of America believes that if local newspapers no longer existed, it would be no big deal,” he said, which is why now, more than ever, journalists have an obligation not just to say, “Hey! Listen to this story!” but “Hey! This is why you should listen to this story!”

Newton, I believe is on to something.  News literacy is a crucial part in today’s news industry.  With so much information at our finger tips, most people have no idea how or where to begin gathering news.  Many news consumers have no idea what the difference between propaganda, opinion and hard fact-based news truly looks like.  I’ve said this in earlier posts, so many news organizations present information that is not truly news, as news.  With this behavior becoming a growing trend, the news consumer hasn’t got a chance.  Not to mention the impact of, yes I know…this again, social media.  Information is at our very fingertips accessible twenty-four hours a day.  Not just on the computer, but on our television screens, our tablets, and our mobile phones.

News consumers need the tools that news literacy provides.  And now, it is the responsibility of  journalists to give you the information you need, but also to inform you of the reasons why you should read the story and why it has relevance in your life.

Yes, as Zhang points out, we journalists wear many hats, and educating our news consumers about why they should read our stories, is just as important.

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Beat Reporting on the Internet


Social Media Outposts

Social Media Outposts (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

Ben LaMothe recently wrote an article for Media Bistro focusing on the idea of reporters creating an online community for the specific beat they cover, or something they report on and have great interest and knowledge in.  In LaMothe’s article, “Should Reporters Create Online Communities for Their Beats?” he states:

“When I think about subject-matter expertise in a newsroom, I think of a beat writer/reporter. In the newsroom, they are the subject-matter experts for the beat that they are assigned to cover.  They have a first-hand knowledge of the topic and the issues at hand and they have relationships with the people who are impacted or make decisions about the topic.  In the world of social media and online communities, they would be ideal community managers.”

LaMothe continues on and explains that setting up such a community online can be relatively inexpensive for a reporter who has the desire to do so.

I happen to think this is a very good idea for journalists in general.  Especially freelance journalists looking to gain attention and buzz to boost their careers.  According to the article it can cost as little as $19 for someone to use software to set such a site up.

This could prove to be a valuable tool for journalists and online reporting.  If professional journalists set up such communities online, link them to social media websites and blogs, this could just be the answer some are looking for to combat the problem of reliable, verified information obtained through the web and social media sites.  In previous posts I have discussed some of the issues associated with citizen journalism and how people are inundated with information.  Much of this information is difficult to sift through, and equally difficult to determine whether it is rumor, fact-based or opinion.  The opinion problem isn’t limited to the web, we see major networks all the time passing off pundits or talking heads as hard news people.

Educating news consumers, and helping the consumer find alternative sites online, offering trustworthy news, is something the web sorely needs, specifically social media.

In my previous post I discuss the notion that social media is taking over traditional journalism, something that I don’t think is necessarily the case yet.  Journalists equipped with a tool such as the one Lamothe mentions in his blog post for Media Bistro, could be the catalyst that allows social media to become not just a major player in the news industry, but launch it directly to the top.  Therefore giving social media a real chance as a serious journalistic platform and becoming widely used and accepted within the industry, more so than the role it has now.

This, I believe is something to be watched, and agreeing with LaMothe, something journalists should seriously consider.