20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
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2050
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2040
S   F   O   R   J
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2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
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2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

“The high pitch of outrage, constant outrage, is exhausting and overwhelming — for our readers, for the citizens of our communities.”

My prediction for the next year is more of a prayer: that our journalism gets slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful.

The news right now feels constantly urgent, a new headline to be outraged by every day. And there’s good reason: The rise of authoritarianism across the globe, the climate crisis, vulnerable communities who are persecuted and whose rights are stripped in different corners of the world. But the high pitch of outrage, constant outrage, is exhausting and overwhelming — for our readers, for the citizens of our communities.

We’ve all read about the ways in which big tech and this outrage/attention economy of digital news has affected our world in very real ways: from deepening polarization to helping fake news spread like wildfire. And it often does a disservice to readers, viewers, and users — we rarely provide enough information to understand history and context alongside headlines; we don’t often enough tell stories that reflect the nuance and layers of communities and people living in extraordinary circumstances.

When I interviewed for one of my first jobs in journalism, an editor I admire told me that every story should serve one of two purposes: It should tell you something new that you need to know about the world. Or it should make you cry. (Or, well, be powerful storytelling that can move you and help shift the way you understand the world.)

I think back to this conversation often now when I read or listen or scroll through the news. How much of our journalism is really explaining things in a way that helps readers understand the communities they live in, the governments they vote for, the companies they support, the ways in which our world works? How are we helping readers hold their institutions to account?

How much of our best storytelling — beyond the endless true-crime podcasts — really helps us understand people, power, and the world around us? What could we learn from the writers and directors and artists and curators who earn a living telling stories to find ways to better engage our audiences on issues and stories that matter?

I hope that in the next year we start looking for inspiration to the creators of the shows we all binge-watch, or the museum exhibits we all post on Instagram. How do they engage audiences to sit with their stories for hours or days at a time? How do they create work that compels people to share? What lessons can we as professional nonfiction storytellers learn from them?

I hope journalists and newsrooms start the conversation with the question of: What information do our readers need and why? And I hope we find ways to invest more in work that answers these questions.

Masuma Ahuja is an independent journalist previously at The Washington Post and CNN.

My prediction for the next year is more of a prayer: that our journalism gets slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful.

The news right now feels constantly urgent, a new headline to be outraged by every day. And there’s good reason: The rise of authoritarianism across the globe, the climate crisis, vulnerable communities who are persecuted and whose rights are stripped in different corners of the world. But the high pitch of outrage, constant outrage, is exhausting and overwhelming — for our readers, for the citizens of our communities.

We’ve all read about the ways in which big tech and this outrage/attention economy of digital news has affected our world in very real ways: from deepening polarization to helping fake news spread like wildfire. And it often does a disservice to readers, viewers, and users — we rarely provide enough information to understand history and context alongside headlines; we don’t often enough tell stories that reflect the nuance and layers of communities and people living in extraordinary circumstances.

When I interviewed for one of my first jobs in journalism, an editor I admire told me that every story should serve one of two purposes: It should tell you something new that you need to know about the world. Or it should make you cry. (Or, well, be powerful storytelling that can move you and help shift the way you understand the world.)

I think back to this conversation often now when I read or listen or scroll through the news. How much of our journalism is really explaining things in a way that helps readers understand the communities they live in, the governments they vote for, the companies they support, the ways in which our world works? How are we helping readers hold their institutions to account?

How much of our best storytelling — beyond the endless true-crime podcasts — really helps us understand people, power, and the world around us? What could we learn from the writers and directors and artists and curators who earn a living telling stories to find ways to better engage our audiences on issues and stories that matter?

I hope that in the next year we start looking for inspiration to the creators of the shows we all binge-watch, or the museum exhibits we all post on Instagram. How do they engage audiences to sit with their stories for hours or days at a time? How do they create work that compels people to share? What lessons can we as professional nonfiction storytellers learn from them?

I hope journalists and newsrooms start the conversation with the question of: What information do our readers need and why? And I hope we find ways to invest more in work that answers these questions.

Masuma Ahuja is an independent journalist previously at The Washington Post and CNN.

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