Focus on relevance
Journalists may need to expand the boundaries of what they traditionally consider “news.”
“In order for news to make sense, it has to be relevant,” said Danah Boyd, a Microsoft researcher and expert in youth media and privacy issues (who also inspired this post with her recent criticism of how mainstream news organizations fail to serve young people).
“If you’ve never experienced any of the world outside of your friends and school, global news feels alien,” Boyd told me. “Young people are deeply engaged in the news of their peers, but we don’t call that news.”
At RedEye, they define news not just by what seems important, but by what seems relevant to their audience. Sometimes those two are the same, but when they diverge, RedEye gives bigger play to the story its audience will find most relevant to their personal lives and experiences.
Include more context
Journalists need to find ways to make complex, ongoing storylines accessible to people who perhaps haven’t been following every word since Day 1.
That’s especially important to young people, who “get the news more randomly and at less regular intervals than do their elders and than did previous generations of young people,” according to Christopher Sopher, who researched and blogged extensively on youth and the media, and now works for the Knight Foundation.
“On-demand news consumption,” he continues, “also means that … online news institutions and even television would benefit from redesigning their content for a grazing audience, built to help readers and viewers dropping in at random times who may not have read yesterday’s story on a continuing topic.”
In short, don’t let a news story get lost in minutiae. Remember to pull back, widen your focus, and explain where this story came from, where it’s heading and why it matters. Some cases might warrant a whole other kind of story — an “explainer” that, as Jay Rosen put it, “doesn’t provide the latest news or update you on a story, [but] addresses a gap in your understanding: the lack of essential background knowledge.”