There are lots of reasons people might want to follow the news, but to me, journalism’s core mission is to facilitate agency. I don’t think current news products are very good at this.
Journalism, capital J, is supposed to be about ideals such as “democracy” and “the public interest.” It’s probably important to be an informed voter, but this is a very shallow theory of why journalism is desirable. Most of what we see around us isn’t built on votes. It’s built on people imagining that some part of the world should be some other way, and then doing what it takes to accomplish that.Â Democracy is fine, but a real civic culture is far more participatory and empowering than elections. This requires not just information, but information tools.
Newspaper stories online and streaming video on a tablet are not those tools. They are transplantations of what was possible with paper and television. Much more is now possible, and I’m going to try to sketch the outlines of how newsroom products might better support the people who are actually changing the world.
What’s a journalism “product”?