I recently read an article from Jeff Jarvis regarding the way newspapers covered Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and it raised a point that I felt was worth talking about. He argued in his article that the success of writing as a journalist should be judged based on what he claims to be the public’s understanding of the important material, without all the fluff. I disagree with this thought.
Normally when you think of the role of a journalist you likely think about how it is their duty to serve the public by brining them information they deserve to know. Jarvis argues that articles and stories should not take center stage as a way to inform, but rather hard facts and lists of statistics and information that the public deems important should be the standard that news organizations should be judged on. I disagree.
Today, there are plenty of sites online, often managed and policed by the public, that compile lists of important day-to-day information. Jarvis uses the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as an example to explain his disappointment in the coverage of what he deemed as essential information following the storm. The the info he was seeking (closed streets, power outages, etc) was something that could easily have been found with a quick Google search, heck, even local community groups on Facebook could probably tell him the info he seeked.
Case in point, news organizations feel it is their job to deliver articles and stories that only trained and experienced journalists can deliver. The public also expects the news industry to fill this role for them. I am not condemning the use of lists or blurbs of facts with no substance to them, I am just saying that news organizations should focus on telling a compelling story first and then sprinkle it with the facts we so desire.