Some thoughts on the elasticity of timeliness and huge news stories, such as the Boston tragedy
When there is an enormously important domestic and/or global story that consumes all platforms of media in a 24/7 news cycle, you have to be strategic about how you jump in, with a new, relevant point of view added to the conversation.
You can enter relatively quickly like OpEd Project Public Voices fellow and Northwestern University professor, Laura Beth Nielsen, did. Nielsen had the lead opinion piece on Al Jazeera Wednesday morning. I say “relatively quickly” because quickly would have meant by 5 p.m. Monday, just hours after the bombings. And many key commentators did just that. (Read my OpEd Project colleague EJ Graff’s moving piece.)
For Nielsen, I chose to pitch Al Jazeera because by Tuesday, the domestic outlets already had a plethora of pieces on the topic (CNN had more than a dozen) and it would be hard to compete with that.
Here’s the thing: there is a balance in media between appetite and saturation. So now, days following the event, as news is unfolding, simple reaction to the event itself is no longer relevant. However, analysis, insight and a longer view from a previously unconsidered angle will continue to be relevant for a stretch of time. For instance:
- You could react to the coverage of the day, the visuals from an educational viewpoint, medical viewpoint, sociologist viewpoint, even through a racial or gender lens. But it has to be what has not been said before and you must be the perfect human being to say it. I heard an NPR story yesterday about a Chicago business that makes prosthetics and it was a story about the cost and how insurance does not cover it completely. So now, it can be a business/health ethics commentary. That is just one small example of how the conversation about the bombings and our understanding of related issues can be moved forward.
- You might ask yourself: Does any aspect of this event intersect with your research, knowledge or experience? Remember, you can make just about any event or trend connect if you think abstractly, and if you are tapped into what you know and can contribute as an expert/resource.
This is not just about Boston, it is about any major news event today or any day. Think proactively and creatively about what you can contribute where you belong in the conversation. And know that you belong.
Michele Weldon is the Director and co-leader of The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Fellowship program for faculty at Northwestern University. This post was drawn from one of her weekly emails to OpEd Project fellows at Northwestern University.