Megan Garber recent post on Columbia Journalism Review, “Leap of Faith: Inside the movement to build an audience of citizens,” focuses on “news literacy” – an offshoot of the media literacy movement — as the mechanism for educating younger audiences about how to appreciate and understand the news. Garber points beyond the financial crisis of current media to the lack of civic engagement as a fundamental rationale for the decline in news readership.
But even larger cultural shifts are afoot than this general malaise and cultural distance. Garber hints at, but does not draw the line to technology’s role in not only changing how and where we get news, but to technology’s role in changing how we think and the values of what we find important.
Society’s storytelling mechanisms are changing. We’ve shifted from an oral society in earlier times to a textual, literate society industrial society to a digital, visual society where image is king along with the flash, the fragment and the immediate. Look at the popularity of Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube and you glimpse the underlying shifts occurring. So where do our long-form, linear narrative forms find an audience in this landscape? Where do our traditional news values fit in this accelerated, visual milieu? Who can claim to be the truthteller, when everyone has the means to tell their version of reality?
Younger audiences have and will continue to adopt a different aesthetic and way of making sense of the world that comes out of this cultural shift. We don’t want them to appreciate the news, we want them to need us…which means changing what we do, not how audiences see us.