Apparently not alone

A good friend of mine sent me this link (thanks Nancy and J!) of a news scrum.*

Whether you know what that is or not (I didn’t), the viewpoints of the contributors are insightful, varied and telling. Please read.

 

The point of this post is a self-realization: I am not the only journalist to be leaving my field. In fact, the article cites another USA Today reporter who’s left his post for a digital communications firm. Scott Martin’s primary reason is also concern for the direction of journalism. In his case, specifically technology news. Martin writes, “…Social media giants are becoming the new distribution powerhouses and gatekeepers of news as well as the place to put advertising dollars to work,” and as a result, he believes news is indirectly becoming corporate advertising.

 

My thoughts on journalism’s future are similar, though Martin addresses the introduction of advertising at a level deeper than my thinking.

1. Despite my interest in local news, its audience is diminishing.

2. The demand for viewers leads to efforts to engage the public.

3. Oftentimes these efforts focus on social media.

 

That timeline seems innocuous. New attitudes, approaches and mindsets are necessary to keep up with society’s changes.

 

Here’s the problem. With fewer people tuning into their local stations, those newsrooms are making decisions that tend to lean toward the more scandalous, the ones that will grab your attention. They’re also using social media in a way that gets people to tune in. Oftentimes it’s a simple copy/paste and putting the audience’s thoughts on the air.

 

Is this the right platform for random comments? Is this news? As stations become more desperate for viewers and engagement, I feel there will only be more changes that will not reflect the heart of journalism.

I will say that the current station I’m at does not compromise on many of these things, but I’m looking ahead.

 

It’s an unusual state-of-mind for me to be in. I generally plan in the short-term. But again, after much prayer, reflection and conversation, I’ve been able to take this leap of faith, leaving a job I love, to find out what else is in store. Stay tuned.

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*I had no idea what a “news scrum” was either. Fast Company describes it as a place where “senior reporters add crucial context and information to a mainstream technology story.”

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The compromise of a deadline

Last week I had the assignment of covering two debates prior to Primary Day, which is Thursday, September 13.

Reminder: GO OUT AND VOTE! 🙂

However, debates are not very easy to cover. Here’s why:

1. If the candidates do their job, there is a LOT of information

2. As a reporter, I have to pick and choose which issues to address

3. There isn’t much time to do so

4. It still has to be a cohesive story a viewer will want to watch

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Unfortunately, the first night I didn’t make my 11 p.m. deadline. I was crushed. It still ran as the top story in our hyperlocal news block because of other political coverage that ran late, but that doesn’t excuse my failing.

So what happened? After racking my brain, I believe it truly came down to wanting to put together the best piece for the audience (Here it is). If you weren’t at the debate, well, by hook or by crook, NOW you’ve got what you need to know on the screen in front of you. In making this my goal, I got caught up in wording and sequencing and most importantly, fairness… and the production just went too long. I didn’t finish on time.

Angry at myself, I went on to the next night’s debate, determined to have my package in before 11.

I did.

Though proud I had met my goal, I realized there was a sacrifice made. As I was writing, editing, regurgitating, I kept telling myself, “It’s not going to be perfect, but just get it done.”

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Therein lies something deeper.

As a journalist, meeting your deadline can often become the highest priority. The news needs to be released IMMEDIATELY.

If only newsrooms were like http://www.savagechickens.com (yes, check it out)

But in the process, are we losing quality?

I know that I did. Before I went to bed that night, I admitted to myself there was a better way I could’ve wrapped up that debate recap. The ending I used? Not horrible. Was it fluid? Could’ve been smoother.

It makes you wonder just how much good storytelling we lose because of the need to be first/prompt/within a certain time frame. Because we definitely do.

In the end, it comes down to whether you value the immediacy or the quality of the information. News… is news.

Too Much Snooki?

A colleage of mine posted this on Facebook: “If you worked at a station that makes… sure to do a story about Snooki having her baby, would you be ashamed?”

A solid, solid question, as I ended up being the “lucky” anchor who read the story.

For those of you who are wise enough to not know who Snooki is

I think more than my opinion, I’m interested in yours. However, I’ll share mine to get the ball rolling.

As much as we hate to think that personal developments in the lives of reality TV stars deserve airtime, they will get it. What has Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi done to be on news outlets? Nothing on the level of politicians, heroes, leaders, entrepreneurs, learners, teachers and others. Yet TV stations (and other media outlets) cover her life because she’s wormed her way into ours. Her obsessions, quirks, outspoken words and sometimes complete ignorance have horrified and captivated us to the point where any action of hers demands our attention.

As a journalist, I hate that her child’s birth gets coverage. As a subscriber to bad TV? I yelped when I heard she went into labor.

Managers who decide not to address Snooki’s son in their newscasts should be lauded and admired. However, I guarantee the majority will choose to make mention because they will receive the ratings and the attention from the general public. Not to mention… they were probably just as fascinated.

Do we blame the media? It certainly is an easy out. But before we shake our heads at the networks, let’s take a look at ourselves.

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I’m the first one to say I need to change my interests before I judge that of others.

Right v. Wrong…I mean, Left. Wait, what?

I say ‘media.’ You say, __________.

Really, go ahead and fill in the blank.

Being a member of the media, I have found that more often than not, I am chalked up to be a liberal left-wing lover.

The media?

Then you learn I attend church. I wear a cross necklace. Immediately I am on the right, the perfect candidate to diversify Fox News.

The media… again?

Ironically, that confusion is a clear indicator to me that I was meant to be in the field of journalism.

Here’s my admission: Each time I find myself face-to-face with an issue that divides our country and our homes, conflict settles in my mind too. I embark on my journalistic journey to hear from one side. Behold, their words make sense! I then inteview an opposing party… and their pieces fall into place. By the end of my research, I’m not quite sure which way I lean.

Back to square one.

Some journalists take a position as they approach a story (hint: they won’t admit it, but they do). Personally, I try to understand as much as possible before making a call. Even then, it’s my goal to ensure others hear both sides. Of course, while I’m telling them, uncertainty often arises again.

Deep down, I know I have opinions. It’s taken years to develop them and confirm they align with what I believe is the Truth. I’m thankful to the wise thinkers who have given me insight. There are still many controversial topics that I haven’t let myself touch yet, but I will get there once I have heard near everything.

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I will say this: there are some decisions that I will likely forego. At least, forego taking an outward stance.

Because… is it that important to have an opinion on everything? Why cause discord when an open ear can heal?