Slow news in a complex world

By Laura Imregi

News Xchange 2015 kicked off in Berlin this morning. The first keynote, entitled “Slow is the New Fast,” looked at one of the roles of journalism in a world where everyone has the tools to be an expert. Given by Jean Philip De Tender of the European Broadcasting Union, the talk raised a number of timely points.

This year has seen some incredibly high-profile stories that have remained in the news for long periods of time. One of these is the current migrant crisis in Europe. The Associated Press has fanned out across the region in 2015 to provide comprehensive and compelling coverage of the world’s largest movement of people since World War II.

To News Xchange speaker Jean Philip De Tender’s point, news these days is “fast and furious” and much of the coverage we have provided has, of course, been live. From the first arrivals by boat in Italy in April, to the borders of Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Macedonia, Austria and Germany, we have deployed the necessary equipment to ensure that customers can provide their audiences with an ongoing live feed and let them see news as it happens.

Consumers are used to live coverage of news stories around the clock. But — and this is the critical point from the keynote — they are still hungry for what De Tender referred to as “slower news.” As well as watching a story unfold, audiences want more depth for greater context. This allows them to make up their own minds about complex stories.

Syrian refugee boys play at a refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. The United Nations said Tuesday the worsening conflict in Syria has left 13.5 million people in need of aid and some form of protection, including more than six million children. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
The focus on humanity gives a more holistic view to the story and allows a greater level of understanding for consumers.

As De Tender pointed out, there has been a shift from explaining the facts to providing the context in which to read the world.

That can mean many things for AP, but for this crisis in particular it means putting together a slew of character-driven stories in order to really get under the skin of the situation.

We spoke to people on the move and asked them to show us what they carry with them. That enabled us to find out more about them, their journey and the country they had left behind. We also took the time to find out what happens to a baby born at sea, tracking down a Nigerian mother and her newborn, and caught up with the Syrian band that fled its homeland and is now performing in Zagreb, Croatia.

In these instances, giving emotional depth to the story allowed audiences to connect in a different way. The focus on humanity gives a more holistic view to the story and allows a greater level of understanding for consumers — something which is becoming increasingly critical as news becomes ever more complex.

Laura Imregi

Laura was the international communications manager for The Associated Press, focusing on generating compelling content and messaging for a variety of platforms to support AP’s strategic objectives.