When you hear the words “fault lines,” what comes to your mind? For some, it reminds them of the earth as an accomplice in earthquakes. However, for many j-schoolers, it takes them back to the annoying repetition of Cross Cultural Journalism, otherwise known as J2000.
According to Angela Dodson’s “Fault Lines: A master metaphor for connecting with the audience,” Robert C. Maynard, founder of Maynard Institute for Journalism, created this concept which expands on the many variances that “shape opinion and human experience.”
The five Fault Lines consist of class, gender, generation, geography and race/ethnicity. All part of what Maynard thought would suffice in explaining cultural differences.
But as journalists, what is the point of constantly going over these Fault Lines? What is the point of having a semester-long course and a 20+ page assignment explaining their significance? Is it not common sense to know that one person isn’t the same as another?
“Different parts of journalism are based around fault lines,” Missouri School of Journalism Associate Professor María E. Len-Ríos said. “In the fields of advertising, public relations and marketing, the Fault Lines often take the form of looking at consumer demographics and psychographics. Fault lines are a tool for understanding.” Len-Ríos has doctorate in Journalism with a focus in Strategic Communication.
Len-Ríos made it clear that fault lines don’t need to be used in every single story. Not every fault line needs to be present, you don’t force it. However, making sure that we are aware of what’s going on around us and what makes a fault line relevant aids us as journalists.
“It’s like a packing list for a trip—did I forget anything?” Len-Ríos said. “Their use is a tool to help us think about things that we may not remember to concern.”
So when you are complaining about the proposal you have to create for your journalism class, remember that this is only to help you understand the world and our thought processes. Remember the Fault Lines when you are stuck in one of those lovely journalistic dry spells or want to reconnect with your audience.