Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
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Feb. 10, 2016, 9:15 a.m.
Audience & Social

The Christian Science Monitor has a new project to provide more positive takes on global news

An “antidote approach to news.”

What do you think of when you think of The Christian Science Monitor? Well, the news organization hopes that you think of it as a place that’s been providing “calming context on global news” since 1908, in the words of weekly magazine editor Clayton Collins. And this week, the Monitor launched a new social media initiative, “The Redirect,” that aims to offer a counter-narrative to gloom in the news.

This is “absolutely an acquisition strategy,” Collins said.

Right now, when you visit The Redirect, you’ll see a number of cards focused on Islamic extremism. Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 12.04.42 PM

Some of the cards expand when you click on a little “More” link, sending you back to a Monitor article on the topic. Each is accompanied by links to share the image on Facebook or Twitter.

“We know our audience cares about progress,” said Susan Hackney, the Monitor’s chief marketing and strategy officer. “They’re not Pollyannaish, but they want to see and participate in change in a positive way. They’re the kind of people that get involved to make their communities better. This offers them data that suggests there’s a more positive spin [on the news] and gives them ammunition for the kinds of conversations they want to have.”

The Monitor will track how many shares each card gets and is also asking for the email addresses of visitors to the site.

The initiative, which was rolled out after a three-week “sprint” by seven team members from across the organization along with consultant Keith Hopper, is undoubtedly modest. When I saw the cards with the “more” links, I was expecting Vox-like card stacks that would expand to offer a great deal more background information; instead, you get one or two sentences and a link to an article. To be fair, though, The Redirect has only been around for a day, and the Monitor plans to expand the project based on reader feedback.

“It remains to be seen whether this is a long-term offering, or a bridge to something else,” Collins said. “We’d like to see what the appetite is for this sort of antidote approach to news.”

POSTED     Feb. 10, 2016, 9:15 a.m.
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