News is a Conversation

Is interactivity the equivalent of holding a conversation with your readers or is interactivity you letting your readers play multimedia games to learn? We think the answer is what Jeff Jarvis, president & creative director of said in reaction yesterday to the Online News Association‘s panel ‘Engaging Readers with Interactivity

    I’m now watching a panel on what they call hereabouts interactivity.
    “It’s not what I call interactivity.

    “They think it’s about creating pages with buttons for people to push. Flash! Wow! They look at this medium as the curator of a kids’ museum looks at an exhibit: Let’s give them buttons to push; let’s make things light up; that’ll make them happy; that’ll involve them. The moderator of the panel calls it “story-telling.” She calls it a means for the audience to “learn in a hands-on way.” She calls it “news experience.” They show us maps that click and let you do a simulation to fix the traffic problem in Seattle.

    “Pardon me, but that’s news as masturbation: the reader goes off in a corner and plays with himself.

    “I don’t call that interactivity.

    “Interactivity is people interacting with people.

    “In this new medium that the audience owns, it’s about — pardon me for repeating myself — the people finally having a voice. It’s about us in big media listening.

    “News is a conversation.

    “I’m debating whether to say all this and make an ass of myself or just sit here and grumble to you.


    “The MSNBC person showed off big Flash things she called “interactives.” A new noun, to me.

    “She said, “We directly challenge the audiencde to think about an issue.”
    Man, that’s condescending!

    “The PBS person, to her credit, said that what’s missing is real two-way interactivity. Yea!

    “She showed off her interactives on — cliche alert — fair-trade coffee, asylum, and gentrification.

    “What turns these people on is Sim news. It’s not real news. It’s simulated for your safety.

    “This is horse-to-water journalism. They want to get you to drink. But what if we don’t want to?

We agree. Online News should be a conversation.