Re-imagining journalism: a way forward

I received nearly 11,000 words from readers to aid my task of re-imagining journalism for contemporary times. It is an unenviable task to extract and paraphrase that to about 700 words to spell out a way forward for journalism. It is an ethical imperative to look at readers as active citizens and not passive subjects. The idea is to reconcile the two fundamental tasks of journalism — making sense and bearing witness — with the challenges posed by technological disruptions.

Ten key suggestions

I have extracted 10 key suggestions from our readers in reworking the modes of journalism. They are: 1) Engage citizens; 2) Effectively change revenue models; 3) Deploy multi-media nodes — videos, podcasts, interactive maps and explanatory infographics — in journalism; 4) Publish more investigative stories and increase long-form reportage; 5) Bring about diversity in newsrooms; 6) Increase media literacy; 7) Make newspapers more interactive; 8) Harness the presence of the newspaper in social media platforms not only to increase reach but to counter disinformation and misinformation; 9) Expand the idea of explanatory journalism beyond FAQs; and 10) Find the right balance of local, national and international news.

Internal discussions reveal that this newspaper has already implemented some of these ideas for its print and online editions. For instance, it has developed different newsletters such as The View from India (major developments in world affairs from an Indian perspective), The Morning Filter (daily news agenda), The Evening Wrap (a round-up of the day’s top news), The Daily Digest (top articles from various sections), Today’s Cache (top five technology stories of the day), The Hindu on Books (books of the week, reviews, excerpts, new titles and features), First Day First Show (news and reviews from the world of cinema and streaming), a political analysis newsletter, Breaking News (when something big breaks), The Margazhi Newsletter (a seasonal newsletter on dance and music during the Margazhi season), In School At Home (from March 30, 2020 to July 15, 2020, containing trivia, puzzles, and worksheets for schoolgoers), and The Hindu Data newsletter (data stories).

The newsletters are part of a conscious engagement process. They are not marketing tools, but journalistic products. Media researchers have documented the effectiveness of these newsletters. They often argue that newsletters are a tool to engage with audiences in a brief and intimate way. One way to increase this engagement is to have web-based chats with journalists who are tracking the key stories of the week. Engagement could mean a conversation with the Science Editor on COVID-19 or with the Diplomatic and Strategic Affairs team on the happenings along the Line of Actual Control.

The desire to speak to writers flows from citizens’ quest for truth. Some legal stories, op-eds, and editorials generate immense interest, and a follow-up interaction with readers will create a stronger bond between the newspaper and its readers. From the Supreme Court’s judgment on the demolition of Babri Masjid to the recent Rajasthan High Court order, interactions will help to counter the cacophony of partisan TV debates and the toxicity of social media platforms.

Engaging with readers

Initially, there was a fear that interacting with readers may erode the editorial integrity of a story and the independence of the press. However, more evidence about the digital information ecology shows that initiating dialogue with readers is a crucial media literacy programme. What do we mean by readers’ engagement? It is a way to invite people to talk; debate; think about how news is collected, processed and delivered, and how it can become more effective. It is about talking with primary partners rather than talking to them. The Notebook section on the op-ed page is part of this media literacy programme.

The digital team said that there is a move to do more voice-over videos following feedback from many readers. They have also decided to play up some of the best comments from readers online. This is all part of a broader plan to reinvigorate our relationship with readers as contributors and partners.

I am confident that the editorial team will implement the suggestions of the readers using the resources they have during this time.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 2:48:37 AM |

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