Reflections: Audience defining news

I was struck by our class’s definition of news.

We were able to come up with comprehensive, inclusive and smart definitions for a tough to tackle topic. And for every single group who dared to call an abstract concept like news something more concrete, the audience was present. Every single definition acknowledged that for news to be news, the message had to be delivered. Furthermore, many of the definitions hinged on the audience as a key player in the process.

Professor Strong indicated that this might have been the first class in which everyone included the reader. So what does it mean when, for the first time, a room full of journalists all have the audience their minds?

I think it means a lot of things. Best case scenario, it means the people are more empowered, having a greater say about the information they want to receive. It means that journalists are taking their audiences’ needs seriously. Worst case scenario, it means the business model has changed and journalists are scraping for everything they can to hold on to their readers, or monetize them, developing social media practices and tailoring content to an audience for the sake of monetary success.

And this is where design saves us. Even with a perceived rise in citizen journalism and social media, journalists still have the keys to the car. The old answer, “Whatever I say it is,” uttered by a journalist in response to the question, “What is news?” has been tossed out the window by the ease and accessibility of information. But news will never be whatever the audience says it is either. It takes two to tango, because news and journalism is intentional, designed, delivered, crafted. It doesn’t simply appear, but designers, journalists and writers must have a hand in creating it before it’s transmitted.