Compilations and Compositions

Given

  • Newspapers are daily news compilations.
  • News stories are topic compositions.

Newspapers are daily news compilations

News CompilationA printed newspaper is a collection of disparate articles, selected, organized, and arranged in such a way to convey a meaning in itself. This compilation is expected to both deliver individual "chunks" of information (articles, photos, etc) as well as to serve as a product itself. It has been described recently as one of the longest lived, most effective, frequently updated data visualizations around. A mix of clues suggests a continuum of information based on importance, from a front page article to box score agate. However, it is always up to the reader to decide what to delver further into.

News stories are topic compositions.

Story CompositionA story is the sum of its sources filtered through the knowledge and imagination of the writer. Each article follows the same structure of a beginning, middle, and end which flow naturally from one to another using the basic literary styles. This has some rather obvious implications, including the fact that the writer can generally assume if they mention "Kerlikowske" in the 8th paragraph, the reader already has the context from the first 7 paragraphs to know who that is and why he is relevant to the story.

What if?

  • The daily news was treated as a composition
  • A topic/story was treated as a compilation

The daily news as a composition

NewsUsing the day's news stories as the raw sources, a writer could filter it within their own knowledge and creativity. Essentially offering a exposition of "What happened today?". Similar to how different reporters can write different stories after seeing the same crime scene, it is possible to imagine the different stories that someone would write when summing up the day's news. Since it's seen through the eyes of one person, there's the possibility of restoring a narrative and personality to the news from day to day.

This thought has taken form at the edges of some news organizations. With the somewhat patronizing attempts to serve the "rushed reader" through 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 minute news round-ups and the slightly less condescending daily news podcasts for commuters. The closest approximation that I've found to this ideal would be the well written and thought out "Today's Papers" in Slate. Taking a common theme throughout the front pages of the national papers and stitching together a new view of the news.

A topic/story as a compilation

Story CompilationIn a compilation, each element has its own unique value and interest, however the selection, arrangement, and organization of those elements is what gives it a life of its own. In a traditional article, the reporter has a selection of elements to work with, including interviews, press releases, archived content, etc. Each of those raw elements have their own unique viewpoint and story to tell and it could be up to the reporter to organize those elements for the reader so they make sense individually and as a whole. Leaving it up to the reader to take their own path through the content, going as shallow or as deep as they would like.

In itself it could bring back a sense of accountability, letting an interested reader read from the same sources to come to their own conclusion. However, reporters would no longer act as a filter and owner of raw information, rather the raw information needs to be seen as the public's property which the reporter borrows. The push-back for this idea can already be seen with blogger posting transcripts of their inteviews with reporters.