Give readers something to READ

All the time, I hear how today’s readers (namely young people like me) don’t want to read long stories. They want their news in short, 140-character Twitter updates, in video, in slideshows, in jabs of words.

But a few things happened last week that really made me smile. A friend of mine picked up the San Francisco Chronicle, noting what a great paper it was. While he read through the sports section, he gave his girlfriend (also a friend) the front section. She saw the takeout A1 story about the recent gang rape of a teenage girl in Richmond, which is pretty lengthy, and laughed at it at first. She mocked that the reporters called a quad a courtyard, but read through to the jump.

I figured she was done after that. We were at a restaurant, and after the orders got placed on the table, the paper disappeared from my sight.

But she kept it on her lap, reading and asking me about stuff.

After the first subhed, she was aghast that they were blaming the crime (well, blaming Richmond’s gang culture) on vulgar music and violent video games. Then she was curious why the reporter quoted a Richmond High student’s MySpace page. Next, she wondered if graphic quotes like this were really necessary:

“They had her down on the bench and the bitch tried to kick ‘Tweak’ (one of the men) in the nuts,” said one young man, who said he had a first-hand account of the attack from Smith but was afraid of being named. “He went off on her, started hitting her, and then it was on. They pulled a train (a gang initiation-style rape, one after the other) on her.”

The same old stories done the same old ways may reach the same old people, but they’re not reaching Zach Leonsis, who’s a video-games guy, who’s online all hours, who never reads a newspaper, doesn’t want to be bored, doesn’t want to waste his time, and, if he likes what he finds, will send the work around the world on Facebook or MySpace or, God help us, Twitter.
I may just be obtuse and naive, but I really believe that if we give people something pure, insightful, relevant and engaging to read… they’ll do it, even if they’re college kids who already have books and assignments to worry about.
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One thought on “Give readers something to READ

  1. Justin:
    I really like this post and I agree. Books like “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” are written like a news column and people buy and read them, Some of us prefer PBS over Fox (Well, that is no contest.) But, we like depth. Life is becoming one sound bite after another, but some of us really do enjoy an hour long conversation.

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