The Future of News: Click Here to Help

News reports are generally upsetting, not just because of the tragedies that often make the headlines, but because as we sit and watch or read reports, we feel helpless. There’s nothing we can do. So why not fix it?

Why not accompany online news of tragedies with a simple “Click here to help!” button?

I’m surprised no one is doing this yet.

It’s old news that the news industry is transforming. Newspapers are dying out, and only a few, such as the New York Times, seem to be truly re-inventing themselves online. But even online, the news has seen a major paradigm shift away from the hierarchical top-down, publisher-consumer model to the “free as in beer,” peer-to-peer model of pseudo-journalism popularized by blogs and now Twitter. Through all this, the big news networks are still asking one question: “How can we offer added value beyond the blogs?”

While blogs have added a lot to the global information flow, I think that responsible, peer-reviewed, accountable journalism has an important place in news reporting. But it’s hard to quantify how much better professional journalism is than the news and commentary (as well as hasty rumour-mongering) of the blogosphere.

The irony is that although the news of older media focused on an information flow going mostly one-way, true interactivity is highly resource intensive, something larger companies could offer more easily than amateur bloggers. Online news could go a lot further towards integrating people back into the news, connecting us with our own local communities, involving us more directly in the world affairs that used to merely depress us. We’ve seen a few attempts at this with the crisis in Haiti, but it could go so much further.

  • “Click here to donate” buttons for worldwide tragedies such as hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. In fact, newspapers could set up their own charities in order to take and track donations even before disaster relief funds are set up.
  • “Click here to volunteer” buttons to join volunteer efforts.

Imagine: no longer frustrating, the news could be an uplifting experience.