As a 25-year-old woman in the era of cell phones and YouTube, I’ve never really been one for news. Information is constantly available to me with just a few taps on a screen, so it seems ridiculous to head out to a store to pick up a local paper, let alone pay for it.
When Danny Stusser brought up the idea of a highly localized news source, what has become JOLT, I saw some potential value, but I said I didn’t have much desire to read something like that myself. He asked me why.
It’s a good question and one that’s taken me a while to answer, but in the end, I discovered that there were three main reasons for my dislike of news, and as a result, three ways in which you could pique my interest in a project like JOLT.
Dislike 1 – Bias and Conviction
On the plus side, news sources can provide you with useful information like upcoming construction projects and what decisions have been made politically, but unfortunately, and perhaps unavoidably, each article is presented from just one perspective.
It’s rare that I've seen a newspaper publish two conflicting articles about the same subject. More than likely that's because they don’t want to confuse people.This leads any publication toward bias reflecting the publishers beliefs.
Perhaps the single thing I disliked most about traditional schooling was the lack of perspective offered. That dislike translates to newspapers as well. I don’t like people telling me that there is only one correct perspective, and I don’t believe it. So many things that we have been told are unequivocally true turn out to be faulty, if not completely wrong, so a paper I could trust would have to allow for, and encourage alternate points of view.
And while I don’t fault those who choose to stand vehemently behind their opinion, I prefer broader perspective and debate.
Dislike 2 – Importance and Relevance
I’ve been told by many people throughout my life that keeping up with the events of the world is important. They stress to me how it’s vital to understand what’s going on in other parts of the world. As vehemently as they argue their point, none have been able to explain why.
The fear of nuclear war has been present since the Cold War, but I’m not sure how knowing this has improved my life, or the life of anyone else. In fact, this knowledge has undoubted detracted from many lives as those who know about it now live with a certain level of constant fear.
The only way in which I see such knowledge as being even slightly useful is in regard to protest. Even in regard to protest, describing the devastation and fallout of such potentials isn’t helpful, it merely elicits fear, and thereby action, which is primarily counterproductive.
As a result, we wind up reading news that only makes our lives worse and doesn’t have any practical relevance. What’s the point of that? Life is hard enough; I don’t need more to worry about.
Dislike 3 – Negativity
We live in a very challenging world as it is. As a young adult, I’m still trying to figure out how I want my life to go and how to get there. And while those older than me may have figured out a bit more, I get that sense that they also still have a lot to figure out. Because of this, I’m highly focused on things that directly impact and improve my life and try to stay clear of things that make it worse. News falls into the second category most of the time.
If I read a story about a tsunami in Sri Lanka, I’m not just getting the facts, I’m also getting a whole slew of societal guilt telling me that I should care more. Rather than providing me with something actionable, like a place where I could donate to help the cause. Instead, I’m shown images of how terrible it is and have the entire situation spelled out for me in grisly detail.
Sure, these kinds of stories might sell more papers in the short term as they catch people’s attention, but I have too many other things that I would rather dedicate my attention to. A local news sitelike JOLT might not have such massive stories in it, but I would still be hesitant because the genre of news seems to be all about how terrible we humans are and how we aren’t doing enough for the world around us -- without providing any guidance around how to actually improve things.
So, if you want to make a publication that appeals more to someone like me, I would encourage you to try changing a few things.
Suggestion 1- Open Form Debate
People may wonder why Joe Rogan and Brian Rose have such large audiences, but from my perspective it comes down to their willingness to challenge their own beliefs and have frank discussions with people who they may not agree with. With so much news focused on one political party or the other, we are sorely lacking in non-judgmental journalism.
Most of the people I talk with are tired of having other people’s beliefs shoved down their throats. I don’t think a single person likes it, just as nobody likes being told that they are wrong. And while each person will have his or her own perspective and opinion, we don’t have to look at those who think differently from us as if they are evil or stupid.
Newspapers are a fantastic forum to enable this kind of discussion, allowing both sides plenty of time to consider their own perspectives, so that everyone following can participate in the evolution of the subject.
This is what I want to see more of.
Suggestion 2 – Relevant and Meaningful
There is so much information all around us, but much of it is just regurgitated. Day after day we see the same small pieces of information, or the same unhelpful articles about things that have next to nothing to do with our lives.
With so many things calling for my attention, I’ve learned to find sources that give me specific, relevant and actionable information for whatever it is I’m wanting.
I understand that this can be difficult. What’s vital and important to one person isn’t necessarily important to another, but whatever you choose to write about, it should never be hard to figure out why an article is worth reading.
If you can tell me why it’s important that I know about that tsunami in Sri Lanka as well as offer some advice on how I might help, I’ll be far more likely to readwhat you publish.
I don’t understand why someone would speak if they didn’t have something to contribute to a discussion and the same goes for articles. Every piece I read should provide something useful, actionable, or unique.
Suggestion 3 – Positive and Uplifting
They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and the same goes for me. Perhaps all generations are told by their elders that they are lazy bumps on a log, but I certainly have noticed such comments about my generation. I don’t know why, but for some reason people believe that telling you just how lazy and incompetent you are is somehow going to make you work harder. I think they are trying to go for a “I’ll prove them wrong” reaction, but for every one person who rises, another nine fall.
We humans are amazing creatures, capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for. All around the world we see individuals accomplishing great things and we admire them, but then we look at ourselves and say “I could never do that”. What a waste of potential.
Newspapers go the extra mile when it comes to human failure though.They show us just how terrible and heinous humans can be despite their power to make a real, positive impact on the world. I, myself, sometimes struggle with the belief that I truly have something of value to offer the world and I have been blessed with more skills and talents than I would have expected. If I, someone who really can do so very much, don’t feel worthy or capable of making a difference in the world, how many other people who could make a change are sitting on the sidelines?
Newspapers and news sites should be about encouraging people to embrace the greatest potential of humanity and provide readers with ideas about how they might help.
So often we focus on the problems and wind up just creating an army of pissed off people with no solution. If instead we focused on what is being done and tell people that they have the ability to make a difference too, I have no doubt we would see a quick and drastic turn for the better.
And while I still don’t know if I would read a news site that follows these suggestions, I know I would be far more likely to read it if it does. I look at news sites when I feel it’s necessary, but the people that help me feel capable, valuable, and inspire me are the people that I return to time and time again. So, if you want to build a strong, loyal audience, this seems like a pretty good way to go about it. This is what I hope the future of news looks like.
Alexis Rae Baker is a publishing associate at JOLT.