ideas web

Humanizing the reporting of the news

Amidst the many changes around and with­in jour­nal­ism, the jour­nal­ist — as an actor in cre­at­ing the news — is becom­ing more rec­og­niz­able, iden­ti­fi­able, and indi­vid­ual. For instance, I'm "friend­s†with New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. (Okay, it's on Face­book, but still). Kristof him­self is a media decath­lete: In addi­tion to being a NY Times colum­nist, he has a blog on, updates his Face­book sta­tus dai­ly, posts tid­bits of news to Twit­ter — and all of this relates and refers to his "offi­cial†jour­nal­ist work as a jour­nal­ist for the Times. He also engages with his read­ers in com­ments, car­ry­ing on con­ver­sa­tions about his posts. These dif­fer­ent "touch points†— a term that I hate, but which seems appro­pri­ate here — allow him to test assump­tions, get quick feed­back, and share infor­ma­tion that may not fit into the frame­work of an offi­cial col­umn. They also gives read­ers ways to get more engaged with top­ics they care about, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of avenues for par­tic­i­pa­tion. Final­ly, they give read­ers more insight into the reporters them­selves — their inter­ests, their infor­mal voic­es, their sens­es of humor.

Is insight good? Is "participation†good?

I don't know. This human­iza­tion of news sources isn't total­ly new, either. There have always been celebri­ty jour­nal­ists like Kristof, and their greater expo­sure ensures the accru­al of an iden­ti­ty more exten­sive than a mere by-line. The dif­fer­ence is that this also hap­pen­ing at much more gran­u­lar lev­els. My friend Leslie is a reporter for the Modesto Bee. She uses Twit­ter to post meta-news (@BeeReporter), and cre­at­ed a Face­book page (Reporter­Al­brecht) to fos­ter a com­mu­ni­ty around her beat. At the Lawrence (Kansas) Jour­nal-World, the sports reporters record pod­casts, com­ment on arti­cles, and main­tain blogs. I per­son­al­ly love the new avenues of par­tic­i­pa­tion, but I won­der what the effect of all this will be. News has become more of con­ver­sa­tion. Reporters are extend­ing their iden­ti­ty into the pub­lic sphere, becom­ing dis­tinct as indi­vid­u­als. Does this increase the val­ue, author­i­ty, cred­i­bil­i­ty, reach, or depth of the sub­se­quent journalism?