Friday, August 28, 2009

Making Journalism Better

Matt Thompson’s site features a very astute analysis of the shortcomings of journalism today and highlights a few fundamental shifts in thinking and approach that would make journalism better and more vital.

Thompson is a strong believer that the web offers opportunities to redeem traditional news organizations, but his outline of the key news elements that are all-too-often missing in journalism applies to all platforms, as do his recommended corrections.

In agreement with Thompson, I have long held that media today fails to present meaningful context to readers (or viewers, for that matter. As a result, it lacks credibility and usefulness. In short, it does not facilitate genuine understanding of the important issues of our day. All too often we miss (or forget) the forest for dissecting the needles of one tree.

A key part of the credibility gap in journalism today, Thompson argues, is the need for more transparency in the process: Media must do more to let people in on “the details of their quest to uncover the truth.” This would enhance the audience’s understanding and enjoyment, he writes.

I agree that journalism needs to be more entertaining and, like Thompson, emphasize that that can be done in conjunction with – rather than at the expense of – providing more substance, too. Context helps to engage readers and retain them beyond the basic details of the headline and the lead.

As basic as it may seem, journalistic organizations – be they newspapers, magazines, websites, TV or radio – must refocus reportage beyond “What just changed” to the essential questions of:
• What we know
• What it means
• Why it matters
• What we don’t know
• Where do we go from here

In a world increasingly inundated with information and sensory overload, it’s more important than ever for journalists to connect the details back to the big picture.

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