Indiana Daily Student

The lost art of listening

Listening -- it's something journalists are supposed to do well but often don't.\nWe are trained to discover the "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?" of the events and issues that define the social conditions in which all of us exist. But in many news organizations, this is a passive or one-way process. We see and hear things we think will be or should be of interest to our readers, and then we print those things. This process is repeated day after day.\nAlas, many news organizations adhere to this process too strictly and don't actively seek feedback from their readers. Oh sure, newspapers will periodically conduct readership surveys and the like, but this is often done in the name of marketing and advertising. Even when done in the interest of news and other editorial content, such surveys are limited in their sole dependence on the responses of readers, whose lives are complicated enough without having to be bothered by pollsters, telemarketers and, of course, readership surveys. Thus, if a newspaper receives little to no response to its readership survey, it might assume nothing is wrong with its news coverage, which is seldom the case.\nThe IDS Listening Tour is different. In my somewhat considerable experience within the realm of journalism and newspapering, I've never heard of anything even remotely resembling the Listening Tour. This is an interactive event that takes the IDS editors and reporters out of the newsroom and brings them to you, the readers. They visit with various campus groups and organizations interested in voicing their views and opinions regarding the newspaper and how it covers and portrays events here at IU.\nSome editors might say such a concept smacks of civic journalism -- a progressive, activist mode of reporting and editing the news that has become passe in recent years. But I believe the Listening Tour provides a unique opportunity for the staff of this newspaper to interact with its audience in a mutually beneficial way. Instead of simply posing survey questions -- such as "Do you like reading about sports?" or "Should we print more international news?" -- the Listening Tour lets readers and journalists engage in a discussion that has the potential to get at the very ideology or mission that defines the IDS and its news coverage. And best of all, it's a two-way exchange that is much more than just audience research.\nNow here's the catch: The Listening Tour cannot happen without you. We need someone to talk in order for us to listen. If you want the IDS to schedule a tour stop with your group or organization, e-mail Gina Czark, the IDS general assignment editor, at gczark@indiana.edu to set up a date, time and place. If you're not part of any group or just have a gripe or concern which we should know about, contact me at idsombud@indiana.edu. Your comments could serve as a springboard for some lively, spirited discussion about the IDS during the Listening Tour.\nOrson Welles' seminal film, "Citizen Kane," contains a famous sequence that portrays the passage of time through conversations over the breakfast table between newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane and his wife. As Kane, portrayed by Welles, goes from being a young, idealistic crusader to a cynical, power-hungry tycoon, his attitude about the role of the press follows a similar path. Near the end of this decades-spanning sequence, Kane concludes that people will think what he "tells them to think."\nThe IDS obviously has a different philosophy. We want you to tell us what you think. \nAs I noted above, never have I worked for a news organization that practiced anything like the Listening Tour. As a journalist, I've received my fair share of feedback, both positive and negative, but it has always come in the form of word on the street, the occasional letter to the editor or just plain hearsay. I envy the staff of the IDS in their face-to-face meetings with their readers for the specific purpose of discussing the newspaper. And I hope it is a success.\nBut, once again, that depends on you. We're listening -- do you want to talk?

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