Since the internet stole the comfortable ebb and flow of the morning paper and the evening newscast, the news cycle has become less like a wave and more like a waterfall. Journalists and audiences are drowning in breaking, negative news.
One antidote, and a trend over the last decade, is a deliberate focus on content over speed, embodied by publishers of long-form content not subject to daily deadlines like Tortoise Media, Delayed Gratification, The Correspondent, the Atavist Magazine, Long Play, and Republik.
Slow news, a term coined by scholar Susan Greenberg in 2007, is a philosophy: a deliberate rejection of the fast, homogenous, and mostly depressing mass-produced and algorithm-driven news. With slow news, many startups are unchaining themselves from technology and reclaiming an influential role, if not as the traditional agenda-setter, at least as “discussion leader,” writes journalism educator Jay Rosen.
Slow news isn’t just about publishing less often. Just as the slow food movement encourages consumers to learn about the origins of their food, slow news is a practice in community-building, and in creating stories with quality and forethought, whether positive, solutions oriented, investigative, or explanatory. (Arianna Huffington was among the first to espouse slow, positive news.)
The business model relies less (and often not at all) on advertising, and more on a deeper level of audience involvement — think “active member” instead of “passive subscriber.” Some examples:
- The Scottish investigative outlet The Ferret invites paying members to vote on editorial decisions at member events.
- Switzerland’s “reader-owned” Republik dubs itself a media cooperative, language evoking the food co-op.
- De Correspondent consults readers for expertise and brings them into the reporting process.
- Tortoise Media invites members and guests to join “live, unscripted conversations” with its staff.
- Positive News offered community shares in its crowdfunding effort, resulting in a media co-op owned by its “reader-investors.”
- Canada’s Discourse Media taps members for both story ideas and funding.
The trend toward slow news has not gone unnoticed by legacy media. Umbrella organizations like Solutions Journalism (in the U.S.), and the Constructive Institute (in Europe) are supporting intrapreneurial efforts, providing resources to media organizations to help them practice “calmer” and more contextualized journalism.
“Over and over again, we’ve seen traditional newsrooms taking out low-value coverage and focusing energies on higher value coverage,” says Tina Rosenberg, a co-founder of Solutions Journalism.
Startups are experimenting not only with audience relationships, but the very concept of time in news. Although fast (and negative) news is necessary – to protect ourselves and to learn from mistakes, the fixation on breaking news has hurt the industry. The routines of reporters “have become fixed in materials and practices,” writes Mike Annany, but those routines are “not recipes for how news time should work.” Slow news producers, in other words, might improve journalism by confronting the accepted journalistic regimens that value speed and volume over depth and deliberation.
Melanie Faizer is a senior lecturer in Journalism & Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, where she teaches courses on media entrepreneurship, digital news reporting, and editing. She used to work for Bloomberg News. Reach her on Twitter at @melaniefaizer.
- Tortoise Media, https://www.tortoisemedia.com/ ↵
- Delayed Gratification, https://www.slow-journalism.com/ ↵
- The Correspondent, https://thecorrespondent.com/ ↵
- Atavist Magazine, https://magazine.atavist.com/ ↵
- Long Play, https://longplay.fi/ ↵
- Republik, https://www.republik.ch/ ↵
- See Susan Greenberg. “Slow Journalism in the Digital Fast Lane.” Global Literary Journalism: Exploring the Journalistic Imagination, 2012. And see Michael Blanding, “The Value of Slow Journalism in the Age of Instant Information,” NiemanLab, Aug. 19, 2015. https://niemanreports.org/articles/the-value-of-slow-journalism-in-the-age-of-instant-information/ ↵
- Jay Rosen, “Jay Rosen: This is What an Organization Built on Reader Trust Looks Like,” NiemanLab, March 28, 2017. https://www.niemanlab.org/2017/03/jay-rosen-this-is-what-a-news-organization-built-on-reader-trust-looks-like/ ↵
- Arianna Huffington, “The Slow News Movement,” The Huffington Post, Aug. 22, 2012. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-slow-news-movement_b_1613631 ↵
- The Ferret, https://theferret.scot/ ↵
- Positive News, https://www.positive.news/ ↵
- Discourse Media, https://www.thediscourse.ca/ ↵
- Jacob Burak, “Outlook: Gloomy,” Aeon, Sept. 4, 2014. https://aeon.co/essays/humans-are-wired-for-negativity-for-good-or-ill ↵
- Mike Ananny, “Networked News Time,” Digital Journalism, 4:4, 414 431, Feb. 6, 2016. DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2015.1124728 ↵