Inglorious labor: The real work of journalism
In the years since Watergate,
while journalists have been busy honing their ability to uncover hidden information, the world has become a place where the scarcity of info isn’t the biggest problem. Its proliferation is. And by and large, journalism organizations don’t have the skills or tools to sort through all the data.
In an excellent post at Snarkmarket, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson call for a new emphasis on “[r]eporting that identifies problems and suggests solutions.”
… we should assign the highest value to reporting that is — above all else — useful…. And more often than not, that type of reporting is going to involve a facility with collecting, organizing, filtering and presenting data that’s far outside the skillset of your everyday journalist.
Bull’s-eye, guys! We have got to put much more emphasis on how well we present and organize information — if journalism is to regain its value to the public.
The idea of usefulness does not require us to (a) spend six months digging in a vast investigative project, and then (b) drown the hapless readers in a six-part series of 100,000 words. To become useful, journalism must do almost the opposite: (a) concentrate resources in knowing what’s happening ALL the time, developing reliable sources outside the official channels, and keeping close tabs on who the real experts are, and (b) inform the readers in a sensible, usable way, with straight-to-the point summaries and updates, backed up by well-organized and easy-to-use backgrounders online.
Journalism has for too long followed the logic of length needs length — that is, if it took a long time to report the story, then by gosh, you’d better write a long story! But people don’t want our long stories. They don’t have time for long. The way we provide value today is in cutting to the chase, not rambling as if we lived in the slo-mo time of Dickens.
I’m not advocating sound-bite journalism. No, like Sloan and Thompson, what I’m advocating is usefulness.
Technorati tags: journalism | investigative | fact checking
Categories: data, reporting