It’s time to give news back to our readers

Let’s focus on them for once.

Ashley Books
Feb 8, 2017 · 3 min read

It used to be the days of journalism were a little more cut and dry. It was about a print product and producing for print readers. There were only two elements that editors and reporters needed to worry about — the written story and photos.

Flash forward to today, and there’s now a whole slew of storytelling methods we as journalists have to work with. From text to interactive videos to virtual reality — we are presented with an overwhelming array of options to share what we want to say.

But even in today’s digital world, it’s so easy to focus on giving readers what we think they need versus what they really want.

So many newsrooms are still stuck in the print mindset — there must be somewhat lengthy written story to fill space on a page, which is then later added to a website. To add insult to injury, often times news organizations will focus on the text and then slap a video and a photo gallery online with it, calling it a “multimedia piece.”

Frankly, it’s a disservice to our readers. We attach everything onto one page, hoping our audience will find something on there they like enough to make them click through. Usually, they also have to spend time searching for the bits they want. As media professionals, we constantly hear about our readers’ dwindling attention spans. They want news, and they want it fast.

So why are we still making our audience search through multimedia pieces and long written stories to find the information they want? Why have we not adapted to changing the way we tell stories to fit our readers’ needs?

As reporters, it’s hard for us to hear that it’s not just about the written story — but it’s something we are going to have to accept if we want journalism to survive.

Take for example the launch of Axios, a new digital publication that disseminates bite-size information about politics, technology and other topics in Tumblr-esque format. Each post is a few hundred words, with the option of clicking to read more in-depth about the topic. Readers are given the information they want, and better yet, it is given to them on their terms.

Several print publications are also trying to look toward the future. In The New York Times’ latest report , the company discusses investing in the future of digital by focusing more on video and multimedia. But even this is coming too late — video and other digital trends have been on the rise for the past few years, and the Times is just now jumping on it when they should’ve undertaken this model a while ago.

In reaching our readers, the solutions and ways to engage them are easy enough, yet we as reporters are so used to our traditional formats that it doesn’t make sense to us. We can’t get beyond what we have known for the past few decades.

Reporting has changed, readers have changed — and so should our storytelling.

If the news industry wants to survive, then it’s about changing our entire mindset. We need to invest more time in listening to our audience to address their needs. Once we start listening, we will find simple solutions, create more engaging content and news will finally catch up with the modern reader.

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