• Jeff Fox: The news, please, in English

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  • One thing you have to say about the dwindling tribe of American journalists is that we never blow an opportunity to shoot ourselves in the foot.
    The last time we got on the right side of a technological or social phenomenon was with Mr. Gutenberg and his movable type. That was just shy of six centuries ago, so we’re due for another winner any day now.
    The corporate directives in our industry are not that different in their desperation and exasperation than in any other field. Our advance scouts, the memos read, have detected something called “social media.” So, as of this moment, go ye with all haste and do some social media. Facebook, FourSquare, Twitter, Twister, meetup, meatloaf – whatever, we’re pretty sure some of those are “social media.” Get to it.
    But to what end, some puzzled and impertinent journalist asks?
    Answer: Our mandate is to deeply connect and interact with key drivers of our targeted audience segments, using relevant, actionable and compelling content units, in a dynamic portfolio of modalities, resulting in more accretive value falling to the bottom line, to the benefit of all stakeholders.
    If the impertinent journalist is at all worthy of that label, he recognizes this as the vacuous non-speak that it is and mutters, “Why did I bother to ask?”
    But where we really mess up is in trying to ape the conventions of each new, uh, modality. Sure, text and Twitter have serious space limits, so brevity – always a good thing – is forced upon users. You get some odd stuff, but we all have come to learn that ICYMI is “in case you missed it,” and even a casual social media user gets the dim sense that many imagine YOLO (you only live once) to be some sort of lifestyle.
    But here’s the thing: Our days are full of speed bumps, and social media aren’t really helping. We can make our way through “R u OK w Q4 rev/spend ests?” but it might take longer to decode that than for the sender to have just spelled things out. Friends, this isn’t some high-minded call to elegance. That ship has sailed. It’s a call to clarity.
    I’ve noticed the non-word SCOTUS slip onto the airwaves. That would be the “Supreme Court of the United States,” or, as citizens might call it, the Supreme Court. Like, POTUS (president of the ... you know), this trendy wad of verbiage works its way into tweets and the geekier of the political talking head shows. That’s as far as it needs to go.
    The other day, a local TV reporter just threw a SCOTUS into the middle of his story. Whether he was trying to look smart, trying to save a couple of words, or just didn’t know the difference, who knows.
    Page 2 of 2 - The point is that at the moment I have to decode the news, you’ve lost me. The remote is never far from reach.
    Any key driver of a targeted audience segment can tell you that.
    Believe it or not, Jeff Fox is OK with social media. Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Fox or @FoxEJC.

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