Magazine article Nieman Reports

8 Journalists Should Keep the News in Proportion and Make It Comprehensive

Magazine article Nieman Reports

8 Journalists Should Keep the News in Proportion and Make It Comprehensive

Article excerpt

"Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society. This is its utility and its economic reason for being.... As with any map, journalism's value depends on its completeness and proportionality. Journalists who devote far more time and space to a sensational trial or celebrity scandal than they know it deserves--because they think it will sell--are like cartographers who drew England and Spain the size of Greenland because it was popular. It may make short-term economic sense but it misleads the traveler and eventually destroys the credibility of the mapmaker. The journalist who writes what "she just knows to be true," without really checking first, is like the artist who draws sea monsters in the distant corners of the New World....

Thinking of journalism as mapmaking helps us see that proportion and comprehensiveness are key to accuracy....

But as journalism companies aimed at elite demographics and cost efficiency, the industry as a general rule did not try [to reach more diverse audiences].... The concept of the mapmaker makes the error clear. We created a map for certain neighborhoods and not others. Those who were unable to navigate where they lived gave it up....

Proportion and comprehensiveness in news are subjective. Their elusiveness, however, does not mean they are any less important than the more objective roads and river feature of maps. To the contrary, striving for them is essential to journalism's popularity--and financial health. …

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