Mountains or Molehills: How to Unflatten the News

by Bob Schwartz

Mt Everest - Justin Bieber
Digital access has made the news world flat. Flat as in if you use a news aggregator, there is some attempt on the site to stack the most important stories within a category, but since all categories have the same dignity, you really wouldn’t know, being from another planet, whether the civil war in Syria is more or less significant than Justin Bieber racing his Maserati through his exclusive California neighborhood (hint: it’s not Bieber).

Just as digital has created this unsortable mess and mass of news, such that Hamlet, who insane or not could tell a hawk from a handsaw/heron, would have trouble telling an important story from an inconsequential one (hint: your uncle killing your father to marry your mother is an important story).

Here is a solution. Since it is very easy to adjust type size digitally, stories that aggregators, editors or writers are willing to admit are not earthshaking might be presented in a smaller font, while those that are vital could use a larger one. This was always a convention of print news, and there is no reason that the capabilities of digital information shouldn’t be used to bring this approach up to date. As in:

Top Stories

Civil war in Syria threatens regional and global stability and peace.

Justin Bieber continues to race his Maserati around his neighborhood, despite complaints from neighbors.