#collegemedia Thanksgiving turnabout: Do we deserve our audience’s thanks?
Posted by adviserdavid
This Thanksgiving, why should our college media audience be thankful for us?
Permit me to offer three reasons — and to encourage you to think about how well you’re earning each category of appreciation from the members of your audience.
Reason No. 3: We do jobs they need done.
“Jobs to be done” is a powerful concept from innovation guru Clayton Christensen. A student may need something to read in the cafeteria or need to know what concerts are coming up or need to find a new roommate. Almost everything we categorize as “giving students the news” falls into this category. We can do that better if it we think of what “job” we’re doing for students with each article, photo, graphic, video, etc.
Reason No. 2: We engage them in conversations they care about.
We’re only starting to figure out how social media can help us dramatically better engage our audience. Some of these conversations will improve our news coverage; others may simply help students talk to each other about subjects from silly to serious. As I’ve said previously, I want to see a social/news “studio” smack in the middle of campus to promote physical and social media interaction.
Reason No. 1: We empower them to help their community.
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? The highest achievement that I could recall on Maslow’s famous pyramid was “self-actualization.” But Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” point out that Maslow later added a higher level: “transcendence,” defined as helping others achieve self-actualization. (Many thanks to Arvli Ward of UCLA for recommending the book during his talk at the “Reinventing Student Media” workshop at the National College Media Convention in New Orleans.)
Think “transcendence” sounds too lofty? The authors tell the story of Floyd Lee, a military cook who came out of retirement to run the dining hall at the “Pegasus” base outside Baghdad. The food and the service there were legendary among U.S. troops. What drove Lee? “As I see it, I am not just in charge of food service. I am in charge of morale,” he said. Morale helped the troops be their best at helping others. As the Heath brothers conclude, “Lee is going for Transcendence.”
That really hit me and prompted this little Thanksgiving reflection. Because we in student media could operate with this transcendent mindset:
“We are in charge of providing information that does jobs our audience needs done; we are in charge of engaging our audience members in conversations they care about; and we are in charge of helping them become so knowledgeable, engaged and concerned about each other that they can make our college better.”
A final thought appropriate for an American Thanksgiving: Reason No. 1 is older than our republic. Long before innovation theory, Maslow or Facebook, the founders of this country believed a free press was critical to creating the shared knowledge and culture necessary to maintain order in a far-flung territory without kings or a ruling class.
The tools today are different. But the mission is just as critical, across the country and on campus. And I’m thankful for that.