Recommended This Week
As we prepare to launch an exciting new reporting project in Haiti, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what journalists do right — and what they do that is not serving citizens of the United Sates and the world. My conclusion? We need to go beyond scattershot stories. We need to provide context. We need to dig deep into the way in which our systems and policies work against prosperity and dignity for so many people in the United States and the world. We need to explain the connections. And explore solutions.
I’m reminded of a post from Seth Godin, an entrepreneur and blogger who thinks about the marketing of ideas in the digital age. Here’s Seth (click on the map above to read Seth’s entire essay):
Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.
The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It’s bait, after all.
The good news: We don’t need many people to demand more from the media before the media responds. The Beverly Hillbillies were a popular show, but that didn’t stop Star Trek from having a shot at improving the culture.
The media has always bounced between pandering to make a buck and upping the intellectual ante of what they present. Now that this balance has been ceded to an algorithm, we’re on the edge of a breakneck race to the bottom, with no brakes and no break in sight.
Vote with your clicks, with your sponsorship, with your bookstore dollars. Vote with your conversations, with your letters to the editor, by changing the channel…
Even if only a few people use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions, it still forces those around them to catch up. It’s easy to imagine a slippery slope down, but there’s also the cultural ratchet, a positive function in which people race to learn more and understand more so they can keep up with those around them.
Turn the ratchet. We can lead our way back to curiosity, inquiry and discovery if we (just a few for now) measure the right things and refuse the easy option in favor of insisting on better.
Round Earth Media is going to “turn the ratchet” in our reporting from Haiti. Hoping you’ll join us!