Journalism as a More Scientific Enterprise

Some insightful thoughts here from Matt Thompson at Poynter. The idea of emphasizing a writer’s stream of articles, rather than making each article a mini-epiphany, strikes me as sound, but not yet exactly right. It’s focused on the journalist and his or her career, brand, and popularity, rather than on the reader.

I’d like to see more articles designed to become resources—a description of the subject matter, a timeline of events, a big pile of sources and references, and links to further information on the people and institutions involved. Over time, brief articles on the latest unfolding events would become part of the timeline, and the main description would be gradually altered to reflect increasing knowledge and perspective over time. There would still be ‘news articles’ but increasingly they’d be pointers to the latest addition to the timeline, rather than awkward attempts both to cover the latest news, and to hint a bit at the background, in the few words allocated.

As for what sort of business model would permit this, I’m not at all sure. It sounds a lot like a Wikipedia article, only written by a single author or modest team, and with far more personal accountability and credit. All I know is, I’m tired of reading 200-word articles on, say, solar panels getting a bit cheaper, that utterly fail to convey the powerful trends behind the latest results.

I’ll be following Thompson for the next while—this could be a seminal discussion.

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