Dear news media: Here’s what your future audience wants you to fix

These college students love you deep down, but they aren’t thrilled with you lately.

Bias. Lack of context. Making news consumption feel like work. Lack of authenticity. News produced for a format that doesn’t make sense anymore.
If you work in the news industry and think none of these problems apply to you, think again. You might not be guilty of all of them, but virtually none of us is free of some of these sins.

Says who? Your audience. And not just any audience — the audience that you’re trying to attract for the next 60 or 70 years. These complaints are from college students who, I’ve discovered in my short time as a digital journalism professor at the University of Southern California, want to be informed but are confronted with a media landscape with far too many errors.

Along with my colleague Jenn de la Fuente, I’m leading a group of students who are aiming to create a journalism product, and, in the process, we’re looking at the role product and user experience play in how much audiences trust news . There are many routes the news media must pursue to earn back this trust that’s at an all-time low. We are looking at one part of that, but first, I asked the students to help diagnose some of the problems from their point of view — which, if it’s not clear, is one you should care about if you want them to read your website, follow you on social, subscribe to your newsletter, download your app or become a paying digital subscriber.

Not all of their observations have to do with what you would typically call user experience. But content and how you approach it is part of the user experience too. They were each asked to interview three friends for their forthcoming posts, so the opinions shared extend beyond the six students in the class.

All their pieces will be posted on this blog and linked below. As we continue in the class, you will hear more from them. I hope you will listen. Here’s the key: They want to be your audience. But you have to earn it.

Create news for people who have never read a newspaper

Hate the Kardashians? Then don’t act like them

We need depth and context

Don’t just hire millennials — value us

Be authentic, empathetic and use the human brain to your advantage

You’re making news on social media, but not for social media

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