Thursday, April 1, 2010

Newspapers Add Value with "Unexpected Relevance"

When we get to the newspaper unit in LBCC's Media and Society class, one aspect of newspapers we agree that we like is how you happen upon stories, photos and other items that catch your interest as you turn the pages. You learn about things that you weren't necessarily looking for. You become engaged with something you didn't expect.

In a new blog post, new media expert Jeff Jarvis discusses this phenomenon: "Serendipity is not randomness. It is unexpected relevance."

He goes on to explain:
There’s a reason we find value in the supposedly serendipitous. ... When we read a paper and find a good story that we couldn’t have predicted we’d have liked, we think that is serendipity. But there’s some reason we like it, that we find it relevant to us.

Maybe that relevance is the unknown but now fed curiosity, maybe it’s enjoyment of good writing or a certain kind of tale, maybe the gift of some interesting fact we want to share and gain social equity for, maybe it’s a challenge to our ideas, maybe an answer to a question that has bugged us. In the end, it has value to us; it’s relevant.
To me, this discovery of something new waiting within the pages is one of the top reasons I keep buying and reading newspapers, and why we will always need editors and others to bring these gems to our attention.

As Jarvis notes, this wondrous sense of serendipity is one of the things that many media observers believe will be lost with the decline of newspapers. I agree when he suggests a somewhat similar sensation occurs through the use of Facebook and Twitter, where we're constantly discovering something new.

But it just doesn't feel the same as that comfortable encounter with the inky printed medium.


(Photo credit: "Surprise from above" by zetson, courtesy of Commons)

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