Friday, September 16, 2011


I heard a new phrase the other day. It still both haunts and suggests. So here's a short story.

A friend and fellow journalism educator and I were talking about the state of the news business, what students are interested in learning, and what universities are willing to teach. It was a rather open ended conversation, and had it been held in a bar, with drinks, in the evening, it probably would have made more sense than the dayside, office space conversation that it was.

But when we spoke about writing styles, and styling writing for a particular medium, my friend passed on something he had picked up from one of his former students, now working on a hybrid news app, or something of the sort, to one of the newer players to the media sandbox.

It's no longer just writing to catch someone's eye, which we do try in television, or to hold someone's interest with compelling sound, which can work in both radio and television, nor is it just strong characters, which works primarily in print, but across each traditional media landscape.

What this recent graduate, the former student, is impressing upon people, and his company is seeing through research, is that the next generation journalist is going to have to write for the swipe.

So it's one, two, three swipes you're out. It's not a matter of losing the reader after the jump, or getting the viewer to stick with the news after the first commercial, or the radio listener to not change the station while stuck in traffic.

Now, it's all immediate, it's all rapid, and it's all there, in no more than three brief lines. Headlines, perhaps. Teases, maybe. News and information, hopefully, but just not sure.

And that's why this revelation, this description for a practice we know has been widely embraced, is both haunting and suggestive. It will continue to scare most of the old guard, and suggest opportunity for the creative members of the news regiments to come.

And it's already here. Just look down on your device for affirmation. Now swipe for the next article.