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December 21, 2015

Four Kinds of Journalism That Start with the Letter S

This post originally appeared in the Local Fix, a weekly newsletter on creative experiments in journalism sustainability and community engagement.

1) Structured Journalism

At its best, structured journalism tells powerful stories by opening up the process to the community, who is invited to contribute, reconfigure and add context to the reporting. Laura Amico has described it this way: “building foundational knowledge, creating tools for the community to interact with the reporting, and setting a space for community conversation at the center.” Structured journalism is also a way of thinking about personalization in news that doesn’t rely on abstract algorithms and big data but instead builds on community engagement and puts control in people’s hands. The recent articles below help define the field and offer some concrete examples.

2) Solutions Journalism

I’ve written before about solutions journalism but recently the Solutions Journalism Network has released some useful new tools and there have been some particularly good examples of small local newsrooms using the approach. These stories illustrate that you don’t need a huge team to do this kind of reporting well.

3) Slow Journalism

The Social Times recently published a piece looking at why publishing fast may be of growing importance to discoverability and traffic online. To be sure, there are real rewards to being first, but over and over again we see speed being prioritized over accuracy. In 2013, Andy Carvin suggested that “Perhaps we can even use social media to do the exact opposite of its reputation — to slow down the news cycle, help us catch our collective breaths and scrutinize what’s happening with greater mindfulness.”

In the most recent edition of Nieman Reports Michael Blanding makes the case for “The Value of Slow Journalism in the Age of Instant Information.” “Like the ‘slow food’ movement from which it gets its name,” Blanding writes, “slow journalism stresses openness and transparency, laying bare to audiences its sourcing and methods and inviting participation in the final product.” I wrote earlier this week about other models of reporting that prioritize this kind of transparent and open reporting, and why increased newsroom transparency is critical to rebuilding trust with our communities, especially at the local level. But Dan Gillmor, who has been writing about slow news for years, reminds us that it is up to us as both news producers and news consumers to create the conditions for a slow news movement. Read Gillmor’s thoughtful post and the response from Ethan Zuckerman.

4) Specialized Journalism

OK, “specialized” might be a bit of a stretch to fit the “S” theme, but what I’m really talking about here is how newsrooms can serve what Eric Newton has called “topic love” or passionate niches. This includes smart work on vertical news publishing operations but also should push us to listen deeply to our communities and identify local groups — formal and informal — who have largely been underserved.

What’s missing from my list of “S” journalism? What about Sustainable Journalism? Social Journalism? Satire as Journalism? Sponsored Journalism? Let me know your thoughts and feedback.