Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Growing hunger for information is good news for jounalism

Tonight the text of President Obama's inaugural address is the most popular highlight on Yahoo News, and doubtless that's true elsewhere, as well.

In an age of ubiquitous video, remixes, and 24/7 television, what makes a plain old text document so popular?

Here's my guess: people are desperate for reassurance, and they're willing to spend the energy it takes to read for themselves and look for the answers they're after.  This is good news for anybody in the business of public service journalism.

I don't mean to suggest the hunger is restricted to text, or certainly not to original source documents only. But you only have to look back to the astonishing numbers of people who watched online video of Obama's 40-minute speech on race to realize the depth of the appetite for substantive information.

Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats famously united the country in a shared information experience, bringing reassurance and hope to millions. I think this president will be working hard to use new tools in trying to do the same.

There is opportunity here for journalists.


  1. Anonymous8:23 PM

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  2. Anonymous8:27 PM

    Howard, millions of people read the speech because there are millions of people who read, and as you say they are thirsty for news.

    This morning I wrote a blog post about and within two hours it was quoted, accurately, in Der Spiegel, in German.

    Imagine you had a time machine and could go back just 15 years and explain that to a reporter of that time. The words and concepts would make no sense. We lose sight sometimes of how much things have changed. But one thing that hasn't changed is that there are people with knowledge and people who want that knowledge.

    You're absolutely right there's huge opportunity now. I agree 100 percent.