Journalism Yesterday and Today

Yesterday, Microsoft program manager Dare Obasanjo posted this image to Twitter. The image is pretty self-explanatory, but it really sums up what’s been happening to nearly all newspaper and content sites as they’ve worshipped the high priests of the “new journalism.” The old, longer article is replaced with a top-ten list because we’re told to write something shorter, punchier, and in bullet points, all of which make the story work for today’s distracted audience. We ask the reader to send or recommend the article all over creation because we’re told content is social. The comments (and how true is the description!) are critical, we’re told, because it’s a conversation. And finally, information wants to be free, we’re told, so it must want to be surrounded by ads, hence the ad ghetto on the right side of the page. The only thing we’re missing is that the story should be written by a “citizen journalist” who isn’t paid for the work but will no doubt continue writing interesting, accurate stuff for free.

What makes the “Today” image so sad, is that each element has some validity to it, but taken as a whole it paints a picture of desperation. While the audience complains about boring, biased, or irrelevant content, sites throw spaghetti at the wall praying that something will stick. Maybe it’s time to worry less about the latest pronouncement from the altar and more about writing stories that people want to read.  And showing the audience how to find them.

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