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Symposium: The Challenge


March 4, 2005

The topic of conversation this morning is reaching young people – and finding ways to engage them in the reading and writing/covering of the news. Unfortunately, the people having the conversation are all old.  I don’t mean that in a bad way – there is nothing wrong with growing up.  But it clearly makes it more difficult to understand younger audiences you are trying to reach. 

Here are some notes/insights from the conversation.  My brain is tired, so I will keep this short.

-         I would argue that most news is not ‘reported’ in the newspapers or even on the web, but rather ‘communicated’ from person to person.  I tell my wife something about what I did at work… that little tidbit of information impacts her life and informs her way of thinking in some small way…. and that makes it news to her. I get an email from a friend… I feel compelled to pass that story along to another friend… and that brings me closer, or sparks a side conversation with that person… that is news to me.  On that theory, the future of journalism will not be determined by what institution figures out how to market its newspaper in the way that drives the most revenue (i.e. more people are buying the news) or some new technology that delivers content faster (i.e. allows news to travel faster).  It will be shaped by what people choose to communicate – in the same, organic, personalized way they have always done so. It doesn’t matter if you are communicating about a war, a basketball game, or what you thought of your lunch at the café on the corner.  Its news.

-         We all seem to agree that trust is perhaps the most important thing in our lives.  We want to trust people.  We need to trust people. Following that train of thought -- the news industry must achieve a level of trust with us if they want to play a big role in our lives.  So how can the industry achieve that trust?  How do you gain someone’s trust? I don’t have a formula for it, but I know it takes time, it helps to be honest, responsiveness and genuine interest go along way. In short, you have to be yourself. Who is the news industry? Who is the LA Times? What is the personality of CNN and how are people supposed to develop the personal relationship with them.

-         Last point – about politics.  The Republicans beat the Democrats in the 2004 election because they were able to develop a higher level of trust between their audience and their candidate. It wasn’t (just) about moral values. It wasn’t (just) about television advertising. Voters wanted to meet their candidates face-to-face and feel comfortable with their style of leadership.  The media successfully balanced the need for breaking news stories with long, thoughtful profiles and in-depth analysis of key issues that helped people to understand where candidates stood on the issues (and when they couldn’t articulate clearly their beliefs).  And above all, the election was decided on the ground.  The Republicans had a better planned and executed effort to deploy volunteers to get out the Republican vote.  The Democrats hired field operatives, gave them scripts, and asked them to do the impossible – to manufacture trust.  Where is the lesson for media?  Get out of the newsroom. Stop hiding behind the broadsheets. Journalism is as much about personal interaction and learning from the person who lives down the street from you as it is about talking to experts and getting scoops. Let’s find the balance.



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in Connected Society


Comments (2):


Brian-- good point on communications vs. news in the first section. I wonder, then, why more professors of communications (and not specifically journalism) weren't invited?

though in the third section you wrote: "Journalism is as much about personal interaction and learning from the person who lives down the street..." no, that's communication, not journalism, would you agree?

Mar 4, 2005 12:42:41 PM      Posted by Jon Garfunkel.


We all seem to agree that trust is perhaps the most important thing in our lives. We want to trust people. We need to trust people. Following that train of thought -- the news industry must achieve a level of trust with us if they want to play a big role in our lives. So how can the industry achieve that trust? How do you gain someone’s trust? I don’t have a formula for it, but I know it takes time, it helps to be honest, responsiveness and genuine interest go along way. In short, you have to be yourself. Who is the news industry? Who is the LA Times? What is the personality of CNN and how are people supposed to develop the personal relationship with them.

Jul 12, 2005 4:28:10 AM      Posted by keji.




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