Gongol.com Archives: June 2020

Brian Gongol


June 7, 2020

News Newspapers: Pick a (nerd) lane

The Washington Post's "Capital Weather Gang" ought to be a model for every newspaper. It's a deep dive into a very specific topic, and that relentless nerdiness makes it worth following (even if you don't live under DC weather). Every newspaper, big and small, ought to pick one nerd lane and make it a signature feature. Cover a unique topic with a team approach and excessive zeal, and let it become a thing for which the paper can become known outside of the conventional coverage of the local news. Plenty of places have much more interesting weather than Washington, DC -- Chicago, for instance, just among the major cities. But in Chicago, there's WGN television's Dr. Tom Skilling, and then there's everybody else -- it's not really a team thing in the sense of a group literally called the Capital Weather "Gang". ■ It's merely a guess, but a good quarter of the population could probably be categorized as "nerds": People who take an unusual amount of recreational interest in a subject, developing expertise that is either outside their occupation or in excess of what they are paid to know and care about. And a lot of people, though not really nerds themselves, are nerd-adjacent: They like hearing, reading, or watching other people get nerdy about a subject. The enthusiasm is the secret sauce. It's a matter of caring about something entirely out of personal passion, then letting that passion spill over into evangelization of one sort or another. ■ Nerd content may not look like much, but as a tool for institutionally defining a media outlet, it would seem to be an obvious source of potential. As the editorial and content-creation staffs of newspapers and other media outlets shrink, it's becoming ever harder to be the "everything store" for news. But it may be possible to survive in the long term by competently delivering the expected "everything", while specifically becoming the destination for some unique lane of nerd content. People want it -- so it seems wise to satisfy that demand.


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