This feels like Tiananmen. They fight for democracy, we watch, they die, we change the channel.
Tweet today from @rhh
Why is News dying? Yes the web and Craigslist are a factor but I think that the events in Iran this week show us maybe the most important reason.
The POV of the Traditional News - Makes us helpless
CNN simply ignore what they can't explain - that Iran is more complex than just being our enemy.
Is not the way that News is Presented making us helpless?
People ask me all the time how they can best improve engagement. I don't think that the answer is to be found in adding more comments or having a Facebook site. I think that it is about changing the POV of how News is even thought of.
Is not the current POV that whatever the problem - the relevant institutions will fix it? So the answer to better healthcare is to be found in a deal with the existing institutions - implying that our health is only about access to drugs, doctors and imaging. So the answer to Iraq is more troops. The answer to better education is more money for the schools and more testing. Get my drift?
Of course all these fail because the answer is not to be found in the institutions anymore. Worse, they are a big part of the problem! So as the news repeats the demand that "they" fix it. And "they" continue to fail, we get more pissed off and more helpless. We want to be able to act.
Is this why on the right, we are seeing people act with a gun? Tell Americans that people are evil for long enough and someone will act.
So is there a hint of what will work better? Yes I think that Twitter is showing us part of the the way.
Why? Because when things happen, it takes us there with the POV of the participants. We see the earthquake in China from the POV of those living through it. We share the tragedy in Mumbai as eyewitnesses with people like us who are there in it. We share what is going on in Tehran.
The future of News needs POV that our world is a complex place outside the power of Institutions as we know them now to help. That we should not expect them to help. We should stop looking for "them" and look to "us".
So this means that we need to find a context for our problems - energy, the financial crisis, food, education, healthcare etc that involves us in meaningful action that we can realistically be part of.
That much of the story has to involve us and how we cope with these problems.
A good example is this video that talks about how one family in Sacremento is taking back their power by growing their own food that I post below.
Many of the problems of the food system and our environment are contained in this tiny story. So are many of the things that you and I can do. Many of the comments include statement such as "Wow I can do that!" It is truly engaging and empowering. It does not make you helpless. As more people join this movement, then the larger collective story could become compelling.
Want to reduce obesity and the rate of diabetes? Well it wont be the drug companies. It will be us. Us getting together and finding ways we can help each other change how we live.
Want to improve our kids education? Well it wont be the schools who do it. It will be parents getting together and finding ways of helping each other.
Want to protect your neighborhood from blight after many homes have been foreclosed? It wont be the city who will be able to help. It will be homeowners getting together.
So where is the "News" here? The news will be these kinds of stories. As the build they will influence more to join and to take action and to take back their power. Who then will tell these stories that are today found isolated in YouTube or on blogs?
I don't think that this POV is possible inside commercial media as we know it today. Their design and their internal culture precludes this approach.
But I do think that Public Media can do this.
We can and will and are starting to tell these kinds of stories - we are starting to use this kind of media
and tools to do this. We are using our brand and trust to add weight to these stories.
The biggest and most immediate story today is the mortgage/housing/financial crisis.
So far all the help has gone to the institutions. Few citizens have felt any relief.
It will be again up to us. The real story will be how to save your home. Or if you cannot save your home, how to get through this. Or how to work to help save your community or city.
These are not idle words.
I will be launching a blog next week to tell the story of how 77 public radio and TV station in 32 of the worst hit markets are working to tell the story of how people who live in their city are starting to act to help each other get through the financial crisis that besets the citizen who is not being helped by their institutions.