We don’t want to hear it. We really don’t. The news from other countries always seems like a din of noise. Riots, protesters, and things we generally don’t understand. Or care to understand. “Over there” becomes a reason why we show little interest. However, because of the convergence of media, and the rise of social media, we can not hide from the rest of the world. World news is at our fingertips but we are afraid to touch it.
As journalists we must find ways to make important news, things we NEED to know, relevant to our culture. In the past, the very definition of giving people what the need to know was used to describe journalism. Today, we are caught up in marketing and sales to the extent we fear journalism is dead because viewership trickles off into social media. It isn’t dead, just dormant.
First thing, the news must be made personal. It must have emotion. It may have to include dogs. But there are ways to make international news interesting to individuals who would not go out of their way to click an app of foreign news.
Step one is using Computer Assisted Reporting. CAR will help you find that angle, that distinct advantage to draw the sixth degrees of everyone’s life to an event.
Here goes: Ukraine and Russia
Why should I care: There are several reasons why you should care if you are an American living in wherever. First and foremost, it appears a return to a Cold War state of diplomacy. A student would say, “That happened before my lifetime, why should I care?” Good discussion to follow as we reprocess the days of nuclear weapons and the threat of global carnage. But, maybe that’s still too much abstract, as it felt like an abstract back in the day. Let’s take it more personal.
Imagine if the government paid you to support them? Imagine getting a paycheck from the government to walk around and tell people how great the government is treating the citizens of the country?
Would I still be interested in this story if presented this way? Maybe, maybe not.
So how can we continue to draw the lines toward the individual?
One simple icon: Dogs. Yes, for some reason animals draw attention to serious stories, because of the personal affiliation to our own pets. During the 1990s, news directors frowned upon pet stories, animal rescues, and silly pet stories but now, it is what may bring a viewer to watch your nightly news.
Okay, so maybe we don’t tell a story about dogs, but symbolic imagery draw us in. Like this pooch, where does his loyalties belong? What happens to this dog in a world split in two? It’s not about the dog, its about the story of where we belong. The picture of the dog attracts us to make us think. It makes us ponder the simplistic nature of loyalty and nature, freedoms and livelihood, that a picture of a person may not extract. Plus, website hits go up with pet pictures.
Humanitarian issues are other ways to bring American audiences to the trauma of the crisis. If people don’t want to deal with the issue on a political basis, let’s make it personal.
Social reforms in Ukraine began in 2011 to assist families and children in 2011. There is a great need for parents to be educated about child development needs. Early childhood care and development is lacking. According to UNICEF, the country has an outdated health care system which is not protecting mothers from unregulated advertising for breast milk substitutes and other potentially harmful products. Only eighteen per cent of all mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively during the first six months. Every year 80 per cent of newborns are estimated to be unprotected against iodine deficiency disorders because of the lack of iodine in their mother’s diet during pregnancy and in their own diets in the early years of life.
So what does that mean during a political crisis? Without making conclusions, it can lead to local news packages about children’s health. Reinforce the need for local social agencies to give aid to families in your own town. American Red Cross and other agencies may have programs to protect homeless or poor children to get proper care. Are there any local experts who can give their opinion on what political upheaval means to families and children’s health care?
We all want to see the world but we project our own needs into our view. The goal of a news desk is to make people interested not ignorant. So find ways to bring people to the story, don’t ignore the story.