Wikimedia: How To Raise The Bar

This entry was originally posted August 12, 2008 on my Old Media New Tricks blog. I’m collecting those entries here to gather a more comprehensive list of my media insight posts.

George Stroumboulopolous‘ show, The Hour, does a great job at taking news stories and not dumbing them down.

It does that by first explaining the story, giving some background and context before going deeper. You know, getting us all on the same page.

I love this show. It explains all the details of those overly complex international issues in a way that’s easy to follow. Plus it also carries alot of stories that the mainstream won’t. [stumble upon]

Tonight, as I flipped on my local news, the two lead stories were about animals. A man with a pack of off leash pitbulls, and a new beluga calf at the aquarium.

There is no explanation needed for these stories. They’re easy to understand, readily consumable and don’t require a lot of thinking. You have an instant emotional reaction to the story. There’s nothing to really understand here, we love animals, we’re afraid of mean dogs. Easy.

Earlier this week Russia invaded Georgia. I dont know much about the story, yet the news will toss 30 second highlight reels of tanks and bombs towards the end of the news with no explanation, context or basis for understanding.

It became even curiouser when Russia faced off against Georgia on the beach volleyball court at the Beijing Olympics today.

I’m sure we’ll see lots of the bikini coverage before we have any real explanation of why Russia did what it did, why it’s important and what the implications are.

I’m not asking for round tables with talking heads and experts and opinions and talking points, I’d like a 30s breakdown of the facts, sort of what you see on wikipedia. Why not call it wikimedia?

The Ossetians are a distinct Iranian ethnic group whose origin lies along the Don River. They came to the Caucasus after they were driven out of their homeland by Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Some of them settled in the territory now known as North Ossetia (currently part of Russia), and South Ossetia (currently part of Georgia). [wikipedia]

Sure, wikipedia is not the best source of information, but it can draw a nice thumbnail sketch when you need one. Wouldn’t it be nice if the local news tried to do that every now and again?

The news, as it is presented right now, is dumbed down, but it can smarten up. Editors and producers just have to take a second to do some research, explain the facts and set the table.

catch the buzz… pass it on.



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