I wonder sometimes if folks at media companies ever try clicking their own links from within social media like Twitter or Facebook, just to experience what a damn travesty of a user experience it is.
As an aside to the previous link, I wish Matter did a more effective job of showing the work that goes in to their long posts on Medium. Each feature length story is well crafted from a narrative standpoint. Each comes up short, though, in pushing the boundaries of journalism.
In that feature the author writes of how:
Each night I’ve gone through my notes and fact-checked the farmers, doubting what they told me. Even after seeing the land and meeting the people I second-guessed their claims and statistics, only to find, time and again, they were telling the truth.
I wish that work was made transparent. Having grown up outside the Central Valley the narrative had me questioning many aspects of it.
Great journalism doesn’t mean pushing all the fact checking on to the reader. Nor does it mean blindly trusting that the author is presenting things fairly. I ought to be able to read the constructed narrative while simultaneously having the source material at my fingertips to dive in to and draw my own conclusions from.
Scenes from the New American Dustbowl. Long feature story from Matter on the historic drought plaguing California. It’s well-written and tells a solid narrative story about the Central Valley.
The obvious reaction to this case, as with the Belgian one, is to marvel at the publisher’s nerve; after all, as we saw with the Belgians, Google is driving traffic from which the publishers profit. “Ganz im Gegenteil!” say the publishers. “Google would not exist without our content.” And, at a very high level, I suppose that’s true, but it’s true in a way that doesn’t matter, and understanding why it doesn’t matter gets at the core reason why traditional journalistic institutions are having so much trouble in the Internet era.
But the difference really isn’t Chorus. The difference is that Vox is open to experimentation, it demands rapid iteration, and it puts technology-shaping people on par with word-shaping people. The difference is that, in many traditional newsrooms, changing the UI on a page like this one would have taken multiple meetings where the tech side’s knowledge would likely have been undervalued. It’s a corporate ethos and a permission structure that means good ideas don’t have to get bottled up. It’s being the kind of place that would build Chorus in the first place. That is Vox’s edge, and you can’t buy that off the shelf.
We are dealing with experts in propaganda who will stop at nothing to see their version of events prevail, and on the rare occasions when the truth emerges, like a hernia popping through gorged corpse, they apologise discreetly for their ignoble flatulence in a mouse-sized font for hippo-sized lies.
Russell Brand appears to be a lot more intelligent than I previously gave him credit for.