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2020
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7

Trade “politics” for “power”

“It’s not just a matter of semantics: The ways journalists decide what they cover — and how they think about the shape of that coverage — has an impact on the world.”

In 2020, it will be time to review what newsrooms consider a breaking-news event. An election result or a major change in government might deserve a push notification sent to thousands or millions of phones, sure — but so might news related to an environmental or social issue, even if it doesn’t fit into “breaking” norms or the traditional navigation bars of many news websites (“National,” “International,” “Politics,” “Business,” “Sports,” and so on).

Rethinking breaking news can trigger emerging reflexes in media organizations. On the French-language digital news site Contexte, there’s no “Politics” section. The term used instead is “Power,” which embraces institutional power, political power, lobbying, and all other kind of power you can imagine in the European landscape. Young people know what the word “power” means — and I suspect they can connect with it better than a fusty old-fashioned label like “politics.”

It’s not just a matter of semantics: The ways journalists decide what they cover — and how they think about the shape of that coverage — has an impact on the world. An idea like “power” can more directly include millennials’ top concerns, like climate change and income inequality.

One might say that these shifts in coverage are a business strategy to better connect with younger audiences. But it’s also a sign of the management in media outlets meaningfully shifting. While editors struggle to innovate and find new sources of revenue, they’re more than ever aware of the gap between legacy news brands and young people. To simplify, news brands see news as what the public should know, whereas young audiences see news as what is useful to know, what is interesting to know, or what is fun to know. Here’s hoping a few new shapes of news can help close that gap in 2020.

Alice Antheaume is executive dean of the Sciences Po Journalism School in Paris.

In 2020, it will be time to review what newsrooms consider a breaking-news event. An election result or a major change in government might deserve a push notification sent to thousands or millions of phones, sure — but so might news related to an environmental or social issue, even if it doesn’t fit into “breaking” norms or the traditional navigation bars of many news websites (“National,” “International,” “Politics,” “Business,” “Sports,” and so on).

Rethinking breaking news can trigger emerging reflexes in media organizations. On the French-language digital news site Contexte, there’s no “Politics” section. The term used instead is “Power,” which embraces institutional power, political power, lobbying, and all other kind of power you can imagine in the European landscape. Young people know what the word “power” means — and I suspect they can connect with it better than a fusty old-fashioned label like “politics.”

It’s not just a matter of semantics: The ways journalists decide what they cover — and how they think about the shape of that coverage — has an impact on the world. An idea like “power” can more directly include millennials’ top concerns, like climate change and income inequality.

One might say that these shifts in coverage are a business strategy to better connect with younger audiences. But it’s also a sign of the management in media outlets meaningfully shifting. While editors struggle to innovate and find new sources of revenue, they’re more than ever aware of the gap between legacy news brands and young people. To simplify, news brands see news as what the public should know, whereas young audiences see news as what is useful to know, what is interesting to know, or what is fun to know. Here’s hoping a few new shapes of news can help close that gap in 2020.

Alice Antheaume is executive dean of the Sciences Po Journalism School in Paris.

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