What’s more valuable: news or commentary? As we dive further into this era of web interactivity, citizen journalism, and blog fanatacism, the question posed to professionals is where does media go from here? In fact, this was recently discussed at Edelman’s New Media Summit 2007, held earlier this month in New York.
A few notable insights:
- According to Gordon Crovitz, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, recent readership surveys have revealed that ZERO percent of readers want more news–rather, they want more analysis. Overwhelmed by the flood of news, they prefer interpretation of the last day’s worth of news, and, in response, the WSJ is training their journalists to write 2nd day stories on the day of.
- Noting that opinion predates reporting by centuries, Nicholas Lemann, Dean of Columbia University’s Grad School of Journalism, said that while reporting is still the focus at the school, opinion classes are now offered. He explained that opinion writing takes quite a bit of social license and adept skills to pull off. (No doubt Columbia would like to be ahead of the evolution of today’s journalism).
What does this mean for communication? In my opinion, we’re going down the road of opinion. In my earliest days of news and reporting training, objectivity and attribution were Journalism 101. You never mixed opinion with news, unless it was appropriately labeled “Commentary,” “Editorial,” or attributed to someone else as a quote. Anything else wouldn’t be “proper reporting.”
I think things are shifting now. Call it the intrusion of post-modernism in mainstream society or simply the Internet’s amplification of the public voice, but there’s no doubt that news objectivity is on it’s way out, and subjectivity (ergo admitting your bias) is in. People want opinion. And with the expanding role of blogging and citizen journalism, they no longer have to wait for major media organizations to give it to them.
The question here, though, is where does mainstream media have to go to retain their readerbase? In Edelman’s opening session, Crovitz and Lemann shed light on that question. It’s a matter of trust: new media and opinion-based reporting has to be augmented with trust and transparence. And trust is just another way to say that the media needs to build a new relationship with its readership: one not only based on trusting the accuracy of the news, but trusting the opinions and analysis. Readers will not only ask the question: Were they accurate? But they’ll ask: Were they right? and How does this relate to me? In other words, mainstream media needs to do better at making the connections for its readers–an issue Crovitz pointed out.
That’s probably why Lemann argued that opinion writing is more expensive…it means you have to know A LOT more about your public than where they live, how much they make, and what ethnicity and gender they are.
In the extreme…this is probably one reason why “fake” news sources like Comedy Central’s The Daly Show and The Onion are so popular: mixing humor with current events, their satire provides deeper messages that the public resonates with, like the example below, one of my personal favorites on traffic problems: