Engaged Reading Digest: listening, killing comments and getting visual

Another round-up of interesting reading about journalism and audience engagement

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Today is technically my last working day of the year — the school holidays begin at 3.15pm this afternoon — so here's a pre-Christmas selection of reading for those of you interested in engaged journalism.

To engage, first you must listen

Hiding behind the most soul-destroying headline ever ("operationalize" is a word that you should only ever use when you've been hollowed out to a soulless shell of humanity…), this is actually quite an interesting read:

Here at KPCC, L.A.’s NPR station, we’ve been challenging our own assumptions about the definition of “news,” including who it’s for and how we find it. We got started with a series of experiments to design journalism for people who have traditionally been overlooked by public media.That sent us into communities with ears open for what kind of information people need versus the kind we think they should want.

It seems really obvious as a point: but it's not. Or, at least, as an industry we've been astonishingly poor at actually listening to our audiences rather than talking at them.

Next on their agenda: building the infrastructure to make this work in the future. Or should I say "on an on-going basis"?

The year we operationalize community engagement
“That’s left us in a position where we’re attracting new audiences but we have no way to build an ongoing relationship with them and eventually ask for their support.”

What happens to ex-journalists?

I remember, as a 20-something features writer, noting that there were far fewer 40-somethings in the newsroom than 20-somethings. And I wondered what happened to them all.  And this was in the 90s, when  times still felt good.

2019 has seen a horrible cull of journalists in the digital sector - and this is a good look at what happened to some of them.

The Human Toll of the 2019 Media Apocalypse
More than 3,000 journalists lost their jobs in the 2019 media apocalypse, including workers at BuzzFeed, Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, and Vice. These are some of their stories.

And here's a good companion piece:

I got laid off. Here’s what I learned from sharing on social media. - Poynter
I knew I would be posting my “life update” to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts. That’s why I put off doing it for about a week.

Eight years ago, I was going through something very similar. What is it about journalism and laying people off just before Christmas?

How the BBC got good at Instagram

Facebook propaganda with some actually useful information in it:

How BBC News Built a More Engaged Audience on Instagram
Learn how BBC News was able to become one of the world’s largest breaking news accounts on Instagram.

Videos of police violence in Azerbaijan vanishing from Facebook

As a cleansing chaser to the previous link, here's something Facebook has some questions to answer about. A mix of hacking and Facebook action is removing some pretty important footage:

How does Facebook explain the disappearance of police violence videos in Azerbaijan?
In the wake of a recent protest wave in Azerbaijan, content relating to police violence has disappeared from social media and been blocked from the web.

Another comment section falls

After 12 years, Crosscut is killing its comment section:

In the digital age, social media has largely replaced under-article forums. And the tenor of our comment sections has frequently been rife with bigotry, racism and deliberate misinformation that undermines our journalism. On a human level, those comments have real world effects on people who make themselves vulnerable by publicly sharing their stories.

With an audience staff of only three, they decided that they didn't have the resources to manage the problem. And this is interesting:

We analyzed our Disqus data and we found that roughly 17,400 comments were made on our site in 2019, but 45% came from just 13 people.

Comment sections can work, and work well — if you manage them well. But some subjects attract such a toxic response that any amount of management won't work.

We’re closing Crosscut’s comment section. Here’s why — and what’s next
With the rise of social platforms and an uptick in threatening comments, the newsroom is taking reader engagement in a different direction.

Visual Journalism FTW

Another reminder that "journalism" and "writing" are not synonyms, especially on the internet:

There might be more to come next week: the combination of being self-employed and running your own blog means that I'm never really on holiday…

But if not, have a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it.

engaged reading digestaudience engagementcommentsvisual journalism

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.