News artisans need a recipe for making a difference, not just making ratings
By Sheila Dean
30 mins of equally negative news headlines. No excuses. You must get hard news out. That’s responsible reporting. Mainstream news media thinks this may be beneath them or behind them. That’s okay. Holistic news production is its own market. When you are editing above the fold, don’t give a mass shooting the same weight as other stories, for instance, by making it the lederboard for 5 days. Give it its own subpage, if it’s a known news distraction that goes on for days. Move it out of frontpage news rotation because it competes with relevant daily news.
Add 5 - 7 minutes of fun - Usually a funny or heartwarming video or news clip will take the edge off of some of the more problematic issues of the day. Laughing at The Man really helps when the public is dealing with issues of heavy control, violence, or power. Animal videos show us another side of life. Featuring a new science gadget or invention that makes the world more empowered or smarter would be good. People always love music. Anything upbeat, uplifting, colorful, dazzling and fun would be best. This creates mental distance from the worst news of the day. The point is that it must reflect the power of positive news.
Fold in lively debate on 2-3 policy areas in current events for an hour - hour and a half. During editorial meetings you have to zero on the hot topics where emotions are going to be high. Most people want to deal with their problems or find their own path to moving out the thorny issues that bother them. The point of holistic news is not to keep the pain in place so people will feel helpless. The best news examines several known solutions to problems in public policy. You will have to re-learn the lost art of moderating debate. The more people who can moderate debate daily, it will sharpen the sword of the 4th Estate when it comes time to cut the hubris and lay out news objectively regardless of advertorial politics. That time will come.
Special Sauce: Editors, suggest your own solution. Media reps will take a position on an issue of public policy and it won’t fail newsmaking if you report the news holistically. This can be an action item by a non-profit whose work closely reflects a policy direction according to your editorial prowess. Endorsing a solution accessible to interactive readers should be top priority.
Toppings: Encourage audiences to sprinkle comment and propose their own solutions. The comments section should be really active. Your Twitter feed should look like a verbal brawl on certain days. Yes, trolls are problematic, but when speech is unfettered lots of important information comes out. It also gives the public the chance to stretch their legal legs and talk back to people who might not have their interests in mind. It won’t be clean, nice or even spelled correctly. That’s not the point. It’s the people you serve. They will endorse the guy who gives them the mic. No one has all the answers, but you may be surprised when your leaders get new ideas based on what constituents are saying.