As you may have heard, The State Press is leaving the revered world of print behind. The newspaper will not print a weekly newspaper and will be untethered from its previous print-based production schedule.
This means a huge change for those who create and those who read the journalism that the paper produces. It’s an incredibly freeing experience to go all-digital, because there are certain limitations to being printed on a static page.
Back in the day, those with a printing press held all the power in terms of mass communication, especially on a college campus. It was obviously too expensive to have a dedicated TV station, and the radio could only deliver so much. Thus, the newspaper held all the power as to what information would be spread and what wasn’t fit to print.
Today, the media landscape looks a whole lot different. Every club, organization, department, interest group or passing fancy has a Twitter account, Facebook page, email listserv and some even want you to look at pictures on Instagram.
With this proliferation of people and groups taking communication into their own hands, what does that leave a news organization?
In essence, there has to be a creativity to how the news is reported or how ideas are shared from the old guard of media. People don’t just want the facts — they can get the facts from anywhere and verify the story themselves, if they wanted.
That leaves the elevation of the story to old guard media organizations. There shouldn’t just be words and pictures anymore. There’s such a broad base from which media can aggregate words, audio and other multimedia in a package that helps attack the story from a few different angles.
In terms of ideas, media must take on a little bit of analysis, too. The bar for knowing about a story doesn’t just come from the other pages in the newspaper, but from many different sources.
Therefore, it’s important that journalists come to the story knowing that many people are informed and don’t want to waste their time reading about something they’ve already heard.
That goes back to elevating the content, as well. There is a responsibility to become more expansive in coverage to go after what might not be talked about. The conversation that happens around an issue might not be covering all angles.
It’s with that responsibility, then, that journalists (here and at other organizations) should go deeper to find either stories that aren’t being talked about correctly — to serve as a watchdog, essentially — or to find stories that aren’t being talked about at all.
With that moral compass to guide, there must be a good package in which to serve media. Most news organizations get clicks and readership from social media. I once read in The Atlantic that “News used to be a destination, and you would go find it on your driveway and in your browser. Now you’re the destination…”
It’s going to be tough to be an organization that not only produces good content but also competes cleverly to get you to click on a piece of content.
That’s where the digital transition gets sticky. How does an organization balance the need for clicks (think “14 cute cat condos in GIFs”) with the obligation to produce content that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that kind of clickbait?
These questions, unfortunately, I cannot answer. I hope that there will be a commitment to good coverage without pandering to those who can’t resist a click.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @peternorthfelt
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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