Monday, December 7th, 2009

Okay, just a quick rant. I’ve been following, at a great distance, mostly via Twitter, this conference here that appears to follow on the heels of this conference here that seem to be part of an onrushing tide of conference-y efforts to “reinvent” public radio (among other media) so that, it’s…I dunno, the word “compelling” keeps coming up. As if the opposite of “compelling” is something to be avoided at all costs. Without sufficient compelling-osity, we are told, the audience—all of it, or at least all of it under 30—will simply abandon it, like totally, dude.

Well, let’s see, some quotes from this ‘The Future of News’ white paper [PDF link]:

Tom Rosenstiel and others pointed out [that] those journalists and news organizations that don’t drop the pose of lecturer and learn how to genuinely engage the audience will be lost.

The pose of lecturer!? Perhaps you’re confusing that with, uh, reporting the news. That is, reading it aloud, just the unvarnished, well-researched, fact-checked facts, the four or five Ws and maybe an H?

That’s really what we have a dearth of. That’s really what we need to re-sanctify in the canon of journalism.

“Draw me in. Engage me. Challenge me, make the radio (or whatever platform) experience as compelling as the journalism. If not, I’ll go somewhere else.”
– Online Attendee Israel Smith

Oh, okay, online attendee Smith. You want the “platform experience” to be as “compelling” as the “journalism.” I think my quote key is getting stuck, or maybe my spittle is getting on the keyboard.

Hey, look. If you’re being offered a diet of Pure Journalism, delivered as actual no kidding reporting, not prognostication or pontification, and you don’t find that compelling, then please oh please go the hell somewhere else.

Chris Worthington, Minnesota Public Radio’s managing director of news, is quoted as saying:

We need to “listen more to the audience” to understand what the gaps in journalism are we need to fill, and what sort of journalism they will value.

This is, of course, along the same vector that compels TV producers to put up real-time ticker crawls of viewer’s tweets. “Hey look, we’re listening to you!”

I’m kinda thinking maybe you’re listening a bit much, and losing the skills of going out and finding out in great and sophisticated detail exactly what is happening. Guess what—your listeners, readers or viewers may have no idea that they want this information until you present it to them. They’re simply not aware of many of the informational gaps in their nutritious daily news diet.

My hope and dream is that we will re-discover the crucial importance of facts, reported without varnish or abuse of the future tense. We will value them…literally. We will fund a vast army of people…let’s call them “reporters” …to go out and lasso those facts.

We will pay for actual humans to report…to go out and do original research and newsgathering, which means sit in chairs at countless boring meetings and don’t talk about your feelings even one little bit…just sum up exactly what happened.

And we will then deliver that information on new media and old. Into microphones and cameras, yes, and onto tweets and into whatever darn other social doohickies you want as well…but the point and the focus of our financial support will be on their gathering, and our presentation will be sober, simple, and unadorned.

Publishing is now even easier than ever. We don’t need to subsidize that.

But we need to pay for folks who will do the craft and hard work of gathering the news.

Okay, you can back to all that “engaging our readers in conversations” tripe now.