Getting lost in the news
Every student these days knows how studying or classes can be put off for seemingly hours by the draw and lure of social networking and blogs.
In essence, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia offer unimpeded looks at information a person would only get in bits and pieces during a normal day.
Facebook, in my opinion, feels like people watching in the mall or school on steroids. Perusing Twitter is like getting an all-access pass to thousands of text messages from anyone in the world. And Wikipedia provides a foundation starting point for just any question I have about the past or today’s world.
Each of these sites provides links that can make the information gathering process seemingly endless.
A person can very get lost – as journalist Jonathan Stray points out – in consuming and enjoying their desired reading.
Unfortunately, I can’t recall a moment in the last several years where I’ve stayed on the New York Times’ website, CNN.com or even Alligator.org for hours on end at one sitting.
One reason for this – again first mentioned by Stray – is that traditional news sites do not allow the user to tailor his or her own information. They still feel restrictive and forceful unlike social media where I can friend or follow the informative outlets that I want to hear from.
Today’s upcoming journalists aren’t focused on one way to deliver news and neither should the sites they work for.
One way to get around this might be something along the lines of what StumbleUpon does. As a semi-random search engine, StumbleUpon first asks users what their interests are, and then only brings up sites that fit accordingly to those interests.
If a news site could ask the same questions about what an individual reader was looking for on the site and have that information prepared on the home site, then it could encourage further reading.
While it would be difficult for most newspaper sites to provide an all-inclusive foundation of local information like Wikipedia, it’s not challenging to put together topic pages on issues affecting the community and stories that perhaps go viral.