Working Backwards to the Story

Defend yourself!

John Gruber at Daring Fireball posted a great read about Steve Jobs’ first days back at Apple in the late 90s – when he was charged with saving the company he created.

Big block quote on this excerpt from WWDC97:

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. And I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I got the scar tissue to prove it.

I’ve been thinking about a similar tack in journalism – how to go beyond ideas of “producer- vs. audience-driven” and get user need at the center of every story’s creation.

Try this – watch the video below and replace the word “engineer” with “journalist.” And keep in mind that for us, “technology” = stories.

Now, some may blanche at the idea of relating journalistic creativity to product development cycles, but if we’re going to create journalism that truly changes lives, we need to ask ourselves, what problems are we solving for our audience? What need does this information address?

When journalists start acting more like entrepreneurs – identifying user problems and attempting to solve them – journalism will cease being an add-on for busy people in their crazy lives. It will become an essential tool for navigating today’s complicated world.

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