Neither a bore nor a pander be
Christopher K. Sopher, writing at NiemanJournalismLab, thinks that news organizations have the potential to reach a vast audience of younger consumers interested in local, national, and international issues.
If news organizations can stop condescending to this potential audience by stereotyping its members. And if—this is where Mr. Sopher really caught my attention—they can get away from the “boring or fluffy” mind set, which he describes thus:
Most sectors of journalism thought have rejected the bimodal theory of news: either it’s inherently boring but deeply important (town council minutes) or entertaining but inane (Lindsey Lohan updates). Yet for some reason the assumption of bifurcation continues to pervade news outlets’ discussion of young people: Journalist types implore young people to eat more broccoli, while most news organizations’ efforts to reach young people assume they’re only interested in candy.
Actually, it is not just for young people that this attitude prevails in news organizations. It’s also the thinking, if that is the word, in the approach to older readers. We still get appallingly tedious dump-the-whole-notebook-without-getting-to-the-point articles because they are about important subjects (meetings and reports that were easy to cover).
As for inanity, well, look at the offerings on the main page of CNN, which tells us that it is the serious news site. “Cougars on the prowl? Maybe not” (Older-woman cougars, not big cats.) “’True Blood’ stars tie the knot” (“Tie the knot,” what a clever and original way to say “marry.”) “Aniston, Jon Stewart recall date” “Blagojevich won’t rule out comeback” “Animal-shaped cities planned”
I think that Mr. Sopher is on to something, that there may be an audience for journalism that is serious, clear, and focused.* For frivolity, too, so long as it is not obvious and cheap. (Maybe leave Ms. Aniston’s slender talent to the movie reviews and her tangled private life to herself?) Maybe if someone would try it, we could see whether it would work.
*Articles generally get clear and focused by an antiquated process known as editing.