As each of us struggles with the real enemy of journalism -- apathy -- we should think about how and why people become interested. Jay Rosen's exploration of the great NPR audio story, "The Giant Pool of Money," zeroes in on how great storytelling that focuses on context can create demand for news:
"I noticed something in the weeks after I first listened to 'The Giant Pool of Money.' I became a customer for ongoing news about the mortgage mess and the credit crisis that developed from it. Previously I had skipped over such reports because I just didn't understand the story. Now I did. 'Twas was a successful act of explanation that put me in the market for information."
But this doesn't only apply to big, complicated, difficult stories like the mortgage crisis.
News stories tend to fall into two categories. One is "painfully incremental" and the other is "out of the blue." If you pick up the average local newspaper and randomly start reading about an incremental development in a continuing story, your brain is going to translate it as "bark bark bark" and move on. And the "out of the blue" stories may seem similarly opaque.
We tend to forget that most people aren't paying a hell of a lot of attention in the first place.
The news is a continuing story, and all techniques that engage readers/listeners/users pay off twice. First they convey the immediate story. Then they create an appetite for the next development by creating the context that helps people recognize important and interesting information. Demand for news is not a constant.