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Journalism becomes the escape

“Wouldn’t it be great if news organizations felt like something known, loved and trusted? If our neighbors retreated into work created by our organizations like they do into private texting groups or Netflix binges or that cozy corner booth at a favorite restaurant?”

If you pause and listen closely, those muffled sounds you hear are the slight chuckles of local journalists in the D.C. area when something is described as being “XYZ blocks away from the White House.”

Proximity to the Oval Office — whether in actual distance or tangential connection — has been an all-consuming focus for many news organizations in 2018. It’s understandable: This is an administration without precedent in many important ways. People care deeply about it and the decisions made there affect all of us.

In 2019, though, there’s a significant opportunity in choosing to cover anything but what’s happening at the White House — especially at the local level.

No matter one’s political persuasion, people are pretty worn out by this news cycle. We also know that retreating into the things that are known, loved and trusted is how many are choosing to deal with it.

Some call this escapism. But what if we took that desire to escape and used it as fuel for relevancy?

Wouldn’t it be great if news organizations felt like something known, loved and trusted? If our neighbors retreated into work created by our organizations like they do into private texting groups or Netflix binges or that cozy corner booth at a favorite restaurant?

What if we made people feel like they were in the know, part of the club, invested-in, listened-to?

What if we spent more time sharing what’s happening in our communities through the experiences of individual people? Or explaining complicated topics in ways that do less to show how much journalists know and instead demonstrate how interested we are in helping our neighbors understand?

If we can prove our relevancy in this news environment, and earn the time and trust of our neighbors, no matter how things change, we’ll have already built something they value — something with a compelling case for financial support, too.

Our world right now is especially poised for journalism that makes people feel known and heard.

In 2019, the next time something happens that makes your community want to retreat, commit to meeting them there with information they value.

Kelsey Proud is managing editor of digital at WAMU in Washington, D.C.

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