I wish we thought about how the purpose of our writing will be met. Who is it for, and what impact is it meant to create? Because no matter how skilled a writer may be or how much substance a piece of writing may have, without an audience, writers may as well be scribbling self-indulgent nonsense into a diary.
The past issue of The KAIST Herald kicked off this series of articles on writing and the responsibilities of the writer by addressing the yellow journalism and “keyboard warriors” that are rampant online. My colleague also aptly pointed out the important role of web portals in shaping the new generation’s worldview, and how most Korean sites fail to promote stories that contribute to our youth’s intellectual maturity. But is the key issue the writers who produce shallow and insensitive material, or the publication of information in a manner that shines the spotlight on matters of little importance? The digital age has permanently changed the manner in which information is created, provided, and received. Visual presentation of information and the platform through which it is propagated has become equally as, if not more important than, whether there was a true wordsmith behind the keyboard that created it.
I write with the knowledge that these words will be published in a shaded box in the next printed issue of The KAIST Herald. This will draw the viewer’s eyes to my column when turning to the page on which it is printed (unless there is a particularly attention-grabbing word in one of the other headings). On the other hand, only the title of this article will be presented in tiny letters at the very bottom of The KAIST Herald’s homepage, and is thus likely to go completely unnoticed. The staff does not release tweets or make Facebook page updates linking to individual articles, so it is quite unlikely that my words will be read by anybody outside of The KAIST Herald in its online format.
It is possible to estimate the number of readers a piece of writing will reach, and the profile of those readers, depending on where it is placed on a printed publication or website. Further attention can be drawn to it through means such as modifying the font and size of the heading, including a colored picture, or enclosing the article in a nice border. The relative visibility of the piece in relation to others immediately suggests to the reader of its relative importance, and influence how the reader prioritizes the order in which articles are read (or even read at all). Several online tools can also significantly impact viewership. The strategic timing of a tweet can help reach a particular age group, interest group, or people within a specific geographical location. Making available Really Simple Syndication (better known as RSS) feeds can help retain loyal readers by automatically sending a steady flow of updates to subscribers.
The digital age is changing the face of journalism; being gifted with a pen and paper simply does not cut it anymore in the industry. There is a deluge of information present on the web, and to stay relevant, it is the writer’s (or publication staff’s) responsibility to utilize all tools at their disposal to get important information to their target audience. Though many may be averse to the thought of having to produce short and snappy tweets decorated with hashtags, they will help stories pop up on search results after being funneled through filters and keywords. Those hashtags will also help lead readers to other relevant material and get in touch with others passionate about the same topic, facilitating dialogue. They can also add momentum to a movement or awareness campaign by piquing interest.
Copyright © The KAIST Herald, Unauthorized reproduction, redistribution prohibited