Friday, August 14, 2009

Dissecting a blueprint

One of the story structures Jacqui talked about in Wednesday's video session was the "news totem," or a structure that resembles an inverted pyramid, but with "sub-items that can't be easily prioritized in a descending hierarchy."

A benefit, Jacqui said, is that it acknowledges that those "sub-items" can "have equal primacy to different audiences."

That rings true when you think of today's readers, particularly, say, on an issue like the health care debate. Different people are already bringing different takes on the news to a story; they're looking for specific topics or information, and if they don't get it, you're the target for leaving it out.

A risk, though, is that by assigning each "topic" its own & equal section, we allow someone with a point of view to scan to only the parts of the story they agree with or want to see covered, and we lose our chance to educate, to enlighten, to strengthen the tone of the discussion -- all the good things that really good journalism can do.

Then again ... maybe people already scan our stories for the stuff they want to read.

What do you think? How can this "news totem" form be used effectively? What kinds of stories would not lend themselves to this form?