Opinion

Journalism is Struggling to Communicate with Millenials

The Failure of Old Journalism to Navigate the New Renaissance

By Jeremy L. Pasker

Fundamental to life inside the erratic realm of journalism, as media culture theory would suggest, is the tendency to not stray too far away from what’s expected of you. News organizations have become a slave to tradition. The old belief is that major media outlets are above cultural shifts and all information need be recycled from a top down paradigm through them, meaning that the privileged few are all the gatekeepers, while the rest of us just lap it up.

That thinking is outdated. The new paradigm is more circular, with media at the center grabbing from everything around it, and then disseminating what it gathered around to everyone else. In this way the news becomes interactive.

Interactivity makes news a visceral relationship with the audience. Events occur in real time at a personal level and the story evolves along with the people participating in it. In these moments, as stories are published, it ceases to be His-tory and becomes a collective Our-story.

Instead of stories, agendas, and points-of-view seen as being pre-selected by faceless figures detached from the immediate effects of what’s happening on the ground, those instances, for the audiences involved in interactivity, makes the news feel more peer mediated and comparatively more trustworthy.

New age audiences “are social, but they do filter and gate-keep intensively. Reach their friends and respect the collective then [the audience] will be more likely to engage.” New journalism then becomes hyper concentrated, local, and topic specific.

And like the frog inside a boiling pot of water, editors cannot tell they’re clinging to a floundering industry that has them at the top. With the evidence of the news’ demise in their hands those same editors have decided that watching the industry burn to the ground isn’t good enough, they must also swipe matchstick to matchbook and participate in the sunder. Their pompous attitudes derive from their once almost total monopoly of readers’ attention.

Today’s world has become a Venn diagram of identities with each one intersecting and diverging at multiple points. Large groups or cultures, able to converse and interact with one another, have allowed publications that sought them out directly to become trendy.

Therefore, the number of distinct cultures sprouting up across the web, the idea that audiences are now able to openly identify with more than one at a time, and each of them also being allowed to communicate easily with one another through various social mediums, functions well with the current generation’s juggling attention spans.

With Millennial attention so sporadic, engaging social apps and social websites will dictate participation, given the advertisement centric journalism industry’s inability to persuade cash strapped Millennials into a subscription based industry.

The securest way to attract them then would be to engage them because Millenials “want to make individual contributions and be connected and woven into a larger discussion. Their social networks and circle of friends gate-keep, and their crowd-sourced impact is powerful. Relating to them is everything.”

Identity is more peer moderated than ever before. Peers are becoming more global and less local. So it would only go to reason that they would prefer their media to be peer mediated as well.

“[T]echnology appears to be putting everything about the nature of [media] up for grabs. A medium that has long been primarily underwritten by advertising is watching its audience crack and break into a million pieces. Viewers accustomed to flipping through channels now are finding that their primary loyalty may be to specific programs, which in turn may be delivered to them through any number of different media.”

New journalism has opened up space to varying definitions of what it means to make the news. Interpreting dense events accurately are based off feelings of emotional closeness versus emotional distance. It is a communications and reporting paradox.

Here’s how. Closeness reinforces solidarity and empathy. The global “Climate Change” endemic is a situation involving seven billion people, worthy of close interaction. Or an oppressive state restricting the autonomy of its populace becomes a utilitarian story also worthy of subjective analysis.

Alternatively, distance from stories leads to better objectivity. If proper journalism is an extension of democracy, then ideas still up for debate should be told with distance until all ambiguities are resolved. But no reasonable journalist could report on Nazi occupation of Europe or the Jim Crow South with distance and objectivity. One side is clearly at fault for the oppression of the other.

The sooner the media embraces a drifting obstinate audience the faster the media will meet audience need for orientation, security (trust), interaction, and tension relief.

 

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