Mar 262010

A single news item is only important to a reader if it makes sense within a larger context. An example

If you’ve been following the ongoing conversation about context in some journalism circles, there’s a good chance you weren’t compelled to view the example hidden above. For you, that context was superflous because of your personal knowledge and understanding of the topic.

If, on the other hand, this is the first time you’ve heard the idea that news items need context to be useful to readers, a summary of related posts might be helpful. The conversation

Every person who reads a news item, brings a unique set of life experiences and knowledge to put the news into some bigger story. Each reader also has a unique set of questions based on their ignorance of, and interest in, particular parts of that story.

One way to provide only the desired parts of a story for individual readers, might be to hide story elements until the reader clicks on a link to expand that part of the story. This is an old trick (shoddily implementod in this post) that might find new usefulness in this new context of … context.

I hoped to submit this post to Matt Thompson’s The Future of Context site, but technical requirements forced me to publish it here instead. Please follow the conversation about context happening on that blog to find out how journalists can create and deliver news in ways that can be more relevant and useful to readers than existing forms of storytelling.

  2 Responses to “Context is personal”

  1. I was thinking about context exactly in the same way. When i was thinking about which tools could we use for helping create context in a more compelling and effective way, i remembered these "text extenders" like the ones you use in your post. Apture is also a really great plugin for links and documents, though if used badly it can be intrusive. The idea that we can expand a paragraph answering the 5 Ws and the 1 H to a more contextualized dimension hasn't been explored that much. But the resources are out there, and this asks for a new set of writing skills for future journalists. The future of journalism is gold, not gloom (except for old journalism). Thanks for writing this, i hope you're doing fine :)

    • You're welcome, Alex. Thank you for adding to the conversation. I agree that new writing skills are required. There are so many times that I think it is the thought process, not the technology that can move journalism ahead. In some cases, new ways of thinking, analyzing and delivering information will require the adoption or creation of new technologies. That is when technology enters into the equation.

      Purpose should drive the adoption of technology. New technology can sometimes inspire new ways carrying out a goal, but it shouldn't distract us completely from what we are trying to accomplish.

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