Breaking News: A New Kind of Journalism
I attended a Zoom meeting with a young reporter from a large paper out East. She talked about a new wave of journalism that is going nationwide. It is called “engagement journalism.”
Think of a community where readers or viewers are an active part of the news process. Imagine that you as a reader are just as important as a source. We are seeing this a bit with television news shows that side with a particular audience group rather than the masses. Objectivity in reporting is replaced with audience alignment.
Some have a higher bar for engagement journalism. They define it as combining the power of community engagement with traditional news reporting to do journalism that serves the community and reflects the community’s interests and needs. I think we used to call that newsletter writing. Or we may have called it niche writing. Or some call it brand journalism.
When I worked at a TV station, I would share county-by-county ratings and share information with the newsroom. My point was, we should look for stories in the counties with the highest amount of rating books and focus some of our efforts there. For example, if we were going to do an Easter Bunny hospital visit story, could we make sure it was in one of our largest counties? That was sacrilegious in those days.
Studying the audience and serving the community may help build back audiences who have drifted to other “news” sources. The reason these audiences left was they wanted their news to be more relevant to their lives. Would you watch a newscast that devoted more resources to your community issues rather than the crime of the day or the accident on the interstate? Is breaking news really something that impacts your life? If not, you might break to another news outlet that is probably more digital and time-shifted to the way you live your life.
If engagement journalism means reporters are more attuned and engaged with the communities they serve, it can’t be bad for the future of journalism. At this point, it is time to try something new — even if the concept has been around under a different name for years.
Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.