By Nelson Graves
News-Decoder is based on a problem and a premise.
Problem: Young people have never had so much news at their fingertips. They cannot escape headlines scrolling across their smartphones, laptops and TVs. But they are frustrated because so much news assumes background knowledge they just don’t have.
How can a student or recent graduate grasp the context behind today’s headlines: Europe’s immigration crisis, fighting in Syria, Greece’s debt crisis?
Premise: Young people want to get a grip on global themes and hear the views of peers around the world.
Granted, not all young people are interested in international affairs. But in an increasingly interconnected world, a growing number recognize they don’t know it all and will benefit if they can make sense of events.
Question: How to tap into the intellectual energy of the generation, born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, that will soon assume leadership in business, government, academia and social enterprise?
Plenty of media groups are trying to answer that question. Digital native outfits are springing up like mushrooms. Despite bloodletting, many believe there are profits to be made in the news business.
I share that belief. But I’ve decided to take a different approach.
Trust, tolerance and impartiality are our watchwords.
We could marshal our team of correspondents and tell young people what they need to know. Easy.
Instead, we would like to harness the curiosity and creativity of young adults to foster understanding. Alongside our correspondents.
News-Decoder aims to build bridges across generations and across borders. Bucking media fashion, we think Baby Boomers and Millennials can coexist in a community where trust, tolerance and impartiality are watchwords.
Our correspondents are uniquely qualified to expose opposing viewpoints that make many issues so intractable. They have reported from the hottest of hot spots, where every word is scrutinized for bias by foes with axes to grind and zealous censors.
Alistair Lyon wrote about this for News-Decoder in his article, “Alistair Lyon and Joseph Goebbels, best of friends?”
But we don’t want our battle-scarred hacks to lecture the younger generation in a dialog of the deaf. News-Decoder will provide a platform for young people to express their own viewpoints and to share experiences.
A private forum and a public website
Recently I wrote to educators at 10 academic institutions who are interested in testing our concept. The plan is to bring their students together around major global themes that will be debated within News-Decoder’s closed forum during a six-month pilot phase.
Closed? In an age when viral sharing seems the holy grail?
News-Decoder is counter-intuitive in many ways, not least in our desire to base our community on trust and respect. Old-fashioned values that are under siege in social media feeds and TV talk shows.
To ensure respect and tolerance, the community at first will be confined to students and faculty at participating institutions.
We will publish the best work from the community — articles, photographs, video, audio — on our website, which will remain open and free. We welcome contributions and comments from the general public. Have your say!
Consider News-Decoder, then, as a hybrid: both a private forum for multimedia expression involving students and faculty around the world, and an open website that showcases outstanding work from students, faculty, our correspondents and the public.
We hope News-Decoder will help young people make sense of events and understand opposing points of view. The ultimate goal? To foster greater global understanding.
An ambitious objective, for sure. But well worth the effort.
Nelson Graves is the founder of News-Decoder. An experienced educator and administrator, he has taught and worked as a journalist on three continents. He was a correspondent, bureau chief and regional managing editor at Reuters, holding posts in Washington, Paris, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Milan and Tokyo. He later worked at Johns Hopkins University’s graduate program in international relations in Europe, and has worked with schools around the world.