The following blog post was written as an assignment from Reuben Stern: What could/should journalists be doing (that they aren’t already) to better connect their journalism with its potential audiences? In coming up with ideas, be sure to consider how people like yourself live their lives and get information every day.
My instinct to the question of audience connections is to go grassroots and get social. And by “social,” I don’t mean just posting a link to our latest articles on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/etc. (although those platforms are certainly important). I mean to make social events out of our reporting. Multimedia work presents an opportunity for this unlike any other.
Picture movie night, but with multi-media, instead. Imagine renting out a theater at your local independent cinema to show off a series of multi-media projects the same way short documentaries get screened. Or reserving your local middle school auditorium for a different kind of performance. (Or fill in the blank with whichever building the people you are trying to reach have in common.) Find the right empty wall and a willing property owner, and you could even improvise a multi-media drive-in experience, a la Sub Rosa in Dover, N.H. Depending on where you are, hold a panel discussion or a potluck or a dance party when it’s over. That’s what I call “social.”
Another buzzword we hear a lot about is “collaboration,” and I think far more potential exists for this than we have yet imagined — especially when it comes to partnering across disciplines, businesses, and even groups of people. For example, poets and painters partner up to create multi-platform exhibits. Why not reporters and sculptors? So much of art is political, it seems a shame to keep such a great distance between it and political reporting as we do. If balance is a concern — as it should be — two artists with very different interpretations of a particular issue could both create art to accompany a multi-media exhibit (which, after all, doesn’t have to be contained within the confines of a website). Imagine walking through a gallery with framed photos, video stations and laptops for interactive journalism, surrounded by paintings and sculptures and perhaps even music. I can imagine it, and it lights my fire. Obviously not every story can be reported this way, but I maintain that annual festivals don’t have to be just for food, films and music anymore.
What this largely comes down to is just plain having fun. As serious of an enterprise as journalism is, and I do take it very seriously, I also think journalists could stand to loosen up a bit when it comes to presentation. If we want audiences to engage more with our reporting, we could start by giving them something other than paper and electronic devices to engage with.