Let audience eat (some) cake, speaker tells journalism students


Shane Louis

Ian Hill of News10 in Sacramento is the keynote speaker at the JACC Nor Cal Conference at Sacramento State University on Nov. 8, 2014.

Taylor Pagan, Staff member

The executive producer for digital and social media for News10 in Sacramento challenged California community college journalism students to broaden their traditional views of the news industry.

In his speech at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges conference Saturday, “Broccoli and Cake: Meeting the Challenges of Journalism Today,” Ian Hill discussed the importance of appealing to reader emotion rather than just producing informative news.

Hill said journalists are selling a public service and they need to realize that doing so requires catering to the public’s interests.

“At some point I have to accept that Americans are Americans and I can only do so much,” he said, further expanding on how people are drawn towards more emotional, topical stories.

Hill highlighted the fact that journalists typically focus on the production of hard news, nicknamed “broccoli,” while dismissing the equally important production of emotional human interest stories, nicknamed “cake.”

According to Hill, doing so is a mistake. He said that meeting the needs of the public is not even a possibility if the public fails to consume what you write in the first place.

Hill advised aspiring journalists to create specific, measurable goals when writing. In order to effectively do so, Hill recommended researching audience data and letting those metrics influence topic decisions.

San Jose City College journalism student Dianne Escalante enjoyed Hill’s speech.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “After this I really realized what I now need to do.”

However, Las Positas College journalism student Laura Cameron was opposed to Hill’s approach to succeeding in modern day media.

“I disagreed with him fundamentally on a couple of things,” she said. “Of course there is such a thing as too much cake. Of course it hurts your credibility.”

In the end, Hill admitted that he, himself, wasn’t too sure when or if the journalistic line has been crossed.

He said, “There’s a certain amount of cake and there is a certain amount of broccoli. And that impacts what we do.”