The field of journalism has been experiencing an upheaval these past two decades. From the growing popularity of new technologies to the loss of faith that the public has in the field has created some unique challenges that journalists have to face.
In this “post truth” era, journalism students are being faced with the daunting task of finding ways to continue to hold the government accountable even with a new administration that is openly hostile to the media.
Mina Haq, a junior multi-platform journalism student, says that she feels that the biggest issue that the political climate has brought is an administration that does not want to work with the press.
“We’ve never had an administration that views the media as ‘the opposition party.’ That’s what they’re calling it, Haq said. “And it makes you question everything that you’ve learned about objectivity. Everything that you’ve learned about the free press. And I think that it brings with it a learning curve for even reporters who have been in this field for a long time.”
Mitchell Tropin, a journalism professor at this university feels that journalists have gotten sloppy with fact checking the news that they send out and keep making mistakes. Even though the false information that reporters have given is unintentional, President Trump will not let those mistakes go, so it is becoming more important to double and triple check information to make sure that it is accurate.
“We are in an environment now where you cannot make any mistakes or the price is very high,” Tropin said.
Tropin mentioned an incident where Time Magazine reporter Zeke Miller falsely stated that the Trump administration had removed a bust of Martin Luther King. Later, Trump and the White House criticized the mistake as an example of “deliberately false reporting.” Trump continued to talk about it during an event meant to commemorate Black History Month.
Tropin feels that new journalists can avoid avoid being called out by Trump for mistakes by going back to their roots and being more diligent in their fact checking.
“All [Miller] had to do was walk over to one of Trump’s aides and say ‘did you move the bust of King? Is it still here?’ That’s all he had to do. Just a little common sense and a little extra bit of caution.”
Another journalism teacher at this university, Alison Burns, says that a lot of her students want to cover entertainment news and fashion. She hopes that the concern about social issues will inspire her students to cover more hard news.
“One of my hopes is that concerns about ‘alternative facts’ in the Trump administration will be a motivator for young journalists to want to hold power accountable that there will be a revitalization of appreciation for the watchdog role of journalists among young people,” Burns said.
According to Haq, one of the ways that the media can face the new challenges that the current administration has brought to them is by coming together.
“There’s always going to be competition in [the media], but we do have to remember that we all have a similar goal. If we’re going to be constantly challenged by this administration, a sense of solidarity and a sense of camaraderie will be important going forward.”
Michael Errigo, a multi-platform journalism student, feels that the time and access to experienced journalists that being a student gives him will help him better prepare to be a journalist in during Trump’s presidency.
“I have some time to kind of see what happens here in his first 100 days and prepare for it in a way, Errigo said. “If I’m going to enter the workforce next year, I’m a senior this year, I can take my time in school to kind of watch and hopefully learn and talk to all of the great teachers here at Merrill and stuff like that.”
However, Errigo does not see himself covering politics very often, preferring feature stories and writing about culture. However, he does say that telling the stories of individuals could help bring him close to talking about the Trump administration.
“The closest I could see myself getting to writing about politics is writing about people who are affected by the politics and affected by the Trump administration, whether that’s in DC or in the middle of nowhere,” Errigo said. “If I could write feature stories that kind of touch on what’s going on in our country, then that would be something that I would be interested in.”
Although Haq acknowledges that the task of holding the new administration accountable will be difficult it doesn’t sway her from her goals as a reporter. If anything, she feels that it has made her more excited to go into political journalism to help work to make it a more effective tool to keep the government in check.
“Mostly [political reporting] has been access journalism and that has never a really been effective form of reporting. Getting a press secretary to give you information, you sort of being a stenographer for it hasn’t ever been what the field is about,” Haq said. “We’re going to have to go back to digging for in-formation and questioning everything we’re told and that’s what this has reinforced for me.”
Burns also had positive things to say about the ability of young journalists to help keep the public in-formed about their government.
“It’s not easy, for sure when you are a young journalist. But think about it: Woodward and Bernstein were pretty young reporters at the Washington Post when they pursued the story about Richard Nixon,” Burns said.
For my media participation project, I worked at Spoon University as a contributor. I signed up in October by email. I got accepted and went to several meetings afterwards. In some ways, Spoon University is like the last company that I worked for in that it is a large publication with many chapters spread out across the country and they have online training. However, they are much more informal and laid back. I like how close-knit it is and how the founders try to stay connected with the individual chapters.
Meetings are held on Tuesdays from 8:30-9:30PM in one of the rooms on the third floor (we have moved around a few times this semester). During the first half hour, the editors talk about events that have recently passed and about ones that are coming up. Then we break into two groups: Editorial (video, photo and writing) and Marketing (social media and event coordination). In the Editorial meetings, we talked about articles and videos that we are working on. Alex Vu (Editorial Director) and Max Faucher (Videography Director) usually lead the discussion and give helpful tips to us when we have questions about creating/publishing content. Then we break usually before 9:30.
I got an article published nationally on Spoon University. The link is here. I wrote about healthy alternative dishes for Thanksgiving. I started the process by emailing my editor (Emily Kim) to let her know that I wanted to write an article and what it was about. She then checked to confirm that there were no other articles on Spoon University that were too similar to the one that I wanted to write.
Once she gave me the go ahead, I went to the Spoon University WordPress account and wrote my article. It took a little bit of going over the training pages for publishing to get used to the site. Their WordPress is different from this one, a little bit more professional. It has a place for meta information and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The way that you add media to the article is different as well. It was interesting to me to see how they created their submission portal and how it was geared to getting the article recognized on a search engine and sending it to the right editors. This is my first time publishing something online for a serious publication, so I enjoyed learning about how writers get their articles out in a way that increases their chances of being seen on the world wide web.
Since my article was not specifically geared towards UMD students, I published it nationally. The process of getting the final approval and editing is similar to the process of getting it published locally, but by selecting “publish nationally” on the portal, I sent it to editors at the headquarters in New York rather than our local ones at UMD. Since Thanksgiving is a time sensitive topic, I got to practice working on a deadline and making sure what I submitted was good enough to be published on the website. I’m still helping out at Spoon University by assisting them at events and writing articles and will continue to do so next semester. Right now, I’m working on a recipe for a depression/ww2 era, eggless, milkless cake! I love the fact that I get to make the foods I love and share them with other college students who love food just as much as I do. It’s been a blast.
The crash of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine was a tragic event that shocked to world. But many news organizations and reporters did not practice good ethics after the event, which only made the situation worse for families and loved ones of the victims, as well as other professionals that were going through the wreckage. Some of the ethical problems that occurred after the event were the instances of reporters such as Colin Brazier from Sky News and Australian reporter Phil Williams going through the dead passengers belongings and one Dutch reporter reading someone’s diary. While it might have made for a good story, these cases were very insensitive to the victims as well as the families, who had to deal with the personal thoughts and belongings of their dead loved ones shown and messed with on national TV.
Another facet of this is for law enforcement. They need to be able to have the scene entirely untouched, except for specially trained individuals, in order for them to piece together exactly what happened. They need to be able to take pictures and video for the purpose of being able to help bring justice to the victims of a crime, if possible. The journalists that went through the scene and moved objects were disturbing evidence that could have proved helpful to law enforcement in finding out what happened.
There was no reason for these journalists to go through these people’s belongings and read their personal thoughts. It is only OK to do something that might hurt people if it is needed to get the facts, if the story is important enough to warrant it and everything possible is done to minimize the hurt. The journalists of these three cases did not give enough consideration to the people that would be hurt and the consequences that they and the companies that they worked for faced were appropriate. These ethical violations were unnecessary for the story and cruel to the families and loved ones that had already been through a lot.
This event shows how, even in this era of 24 hour cable news and sensationalism in journalism, journalists need to remain ethical about how they report on stories, especially tragedies like what happened to flight 17. In the Sky News incident, Mr. Brazier commented while he was going through the luggage that he did not think that they should be going through the luggage of the victims, according to The Guardian. Journalists need to trust their instincts and common sense when reporting news because if doing something does not seem right it probably should not be done. Journalists should practice empathy in all circumstances. They should put themselves into the shoes of the family and loved ones and think about whether they would want a reporter to do that to their relative’s belongings.
Journalism is still a relatively free profession, with no official ethical code or many laws that control conduct. It is important that journalists use the freedom that they have to practice their profession ethically so that journalism can remain free in the future.
For this assignment, I looked at the flooding and tornadoes in Texas. The radio station that I looked at was the Texas local radio station KLBJ (99.7FM) and for the video, I looked at CBS News. The news for both of the stations were the same. They both said similar things for the basic facts. However, there were differences in how the news was presented for each station.
One thing that was different was that CBS was showing weather updates on radar and showing video footage from a survivor that had survived getting his car swept away by the flooded river by climbing a tree and staying there for 5 hours. I feel that this enhanced the news a little bit from what I heard on the radio. They could describe what was going on on the radio, but seeing the maps and the footage of the flooding really made it more real for me. Interviews were also enhanced because I got to see the interviewees’ faces as they were being interviewed. Hearing the interviewees speak on camera was not enough to get a feel for what they were feeling. It was better to see the emotions on their faces.
Another thing that was different between the local radio station and CBS was the focus. CBS had some coverage of the floods, but they were not the focus of the website. Since KLBJ is a local radio station in Texas, it was reversed. Most of the focus of the broadcasts were on the flooding and how the survivors can use FEMA for compensation for damages or how they can sign up to help each other. There was a little bit of national news as well. There was a downside, though. KLBJ was a news station, but it shared airtime with some other radio shows such as Coast to Coast AM, a paranormal news/ talk radio show. The shows were interrupted sometimes to talk about news, which included the floods.
I picked CBS and KLBJ because I wanted to see not just what the differences would be from radio and TV coverage, but what the differences would be between a local news station in the state being affected and a national news organization. Since I have only ever heard news on the radio from WTOP news, I was curious to see another local news station and how they handled the news. One difference that I noticed were the radio shows that happened along with the news broadcasts. I did not think that the news station and the shows would share the same radio station. I was surprised that Coast to Coast AM was being broadcast at KLBJ. I am familiar with that radio show, but I did not realize that it was filmed in Texas.
Overall, I liked TV better, because I liked how the visual information enhanced what I was listening to. Radio was good for listening while doing something else, but the visual component was what gave the most important information.
The PBS special “War of the Worlds,” about a radio drama by the same name that caused mass hysteria in the 1930’s was really interesting and showed how powerful a medium the radio was during the Great Depression. The documentary showed the issue from many angles to show precisely why the idea of Martians landing in New Jersey and terrorizing people was able to inspire so much panic in America.
One of the things that I really liked was the fact that they had televised interviews with some of the people who went through the events, as well as dramatizations of what the interviewees were talking about. They had visuals of people ironing and children playing around the radio, which helps with understanding, since people watching today might not know what an old radio might look like or what a cherished object it was for the families that owned them. The black and white visuals help to make the documentary more realistic, because it looks like everything is happening in the 1930’s and the dramatizations makes it feel more like a current documentary, so it feels more like something that people of today already enjoy and relate to.
Another thing that the documentary did that I liked was that it explained the events that showed why the hysteria was possible and how it got as widespread as it did during the Great Depression. It showed both the fear and uncertainty that the Great Depression and threat of a new world war inspired and the importance of the radio in Depression era America. The explanation of how people were unwilling to give up their radios or not buy new ones showed how people felt a need to be connected to the rest of the world that could not be satisfied by newspapers alone. People did not just want to read the news, they wanted to be able to hear the newscasters and president talk about what was going on. They wanted to have the entertainment of the comedies and dramas that radio provided and they were willing to still buy radios at a time when many Americans were struggling to feed themselves.
The documentary also talked about how the Depression and threat of World War 2 made people fearful and more willing to believe in terrifying things. The documentary showed snippets of speeches by Adolf Hitler and talked about the uncertainty of the Depression to really bring home the fact that people were willing to believe that aliens had landed in a field in New Jersey because they had already heard and seen some unbelievable and horrible things. This was not just that people were gullible back then. It was the fact that the country had entered an era where people were not just reading what was going in the world through the paper. They were experiencing it through radio. The great thing that the documentary did was that it took this event of mass hysteria and framed it in such a way that viewers could see the different angles of the issue. It was not just gullible people listening to the radio and panicking. It was the result of a climate of fear and new forms of mass communication.
I think that to solve the diversity problem and the problem of underreported news in the world, I would like to make use of the World Wide Web. I would have a main place where the company is created and where the main center for PR and marketing takes place. However, I would like to have satellite places all across the country and world. How it would work is that people working in the satellite places would have their own editorial staff, writers, reporters and photojournalists, but they would be sending the finished products to the main website.
Since sometimes people who were born and raised in a certain area can sometimes not report on something because of cultural reasons, or because they are used to something and don’t think it’s really newsworthy, I’m going to periodically send some journalists from one region to another to get a fresh perspective of certain things that are going on. This might even get some readers interested in news from different religions if they are a fan of a certain reporter and that reporter goes to another place. I would have to make sure that there are still people that are native to the region that I’m covering, especially on the editorial team, because they will have insights on certain topics, like what to be sensitive about covering or if covering a certain something might pose a safety concern in that country or region.
Since a lot of countries speak different languages, I’m going to have to make sure to staff plenty of people who can translate articles into multiple languages. I want local people of a country or newspaper to be able to use my news service as a source for local news source as well as a source for international news. I want to have a news source that is capable of being translated into any language, so people from any country or region can get the same experience that people in the US would. I want subbed news reports on television, as well as reporters who are fluent in different languages to report in different languages. I want to put in accommodations such as text descriptions of pictures so that disabled people can enjoy my news as well. People visiting the site would be able to choose the language that they want from a drop down list for articles, tv segments and radio broadcasts. All news: print, radio and television can be seen online and there will be no hard copy print news because it seems to be falling out of favor and I want my news to be sustainable for the environment. What I’m going for is a news source that is as intimate as local news, but able to be understood by everyone. If we are to bring attention to things that are not covered in today’s news, we need to have many different kinds of perspectives working on news, so that someone will notice and post something that others might miss or not think is important.
The media mogul that I would like to emulate the most would probably be Katherine Garham. She had real faith in her journalists and didn’t back down from what she thought was right, even if the thing that her journalists were covering was as intimidating as government conspiracy. That’s the quality that I would like to prioritize in my company and all of the satellite companies around the world. Because that’s what I think that good journalism is. Journalists following their gut instincts as well as the basic journalism ethical guidelines. And editors need to trust their journalists and reporters to know when something seems weird/wrong/newsworthy and back them up if need be.
One of the assignments I have as a Journalism 200 student is to watch the documentary Page One: The New York Times Story. As someone who may find herself working at a newsroom like the Times, I found the documentary very interesting and thought provoking. The New York Times, like other newspapers, are finding themselves in a serious predicament. The news is rapidly changing and if the big news businesses don’t find some way to adapt, they face the possibility of going under.
All of the big issues that the documentary covers have something to do with change and how to adapt to it. It didn’t just cover the issues facing the New York Times. It covered the big issues facing all types of media. Even though the issues affected different types of media, such as TV, they all showed how quickly things were changing because of new technology and how the media companies were struggling to adapt and many print media places have had to figure out how to make do with less or go bankrupt.
One issue that the New York Times has had to deal with is the rise of citizen journalism and YouTube. The publication of the Afgahn War Logs from WikiLeaks shows how much things have changed. Before the Internet, in 1971, The Times brought the Pentagon Papers to national attention. They showed that the White House had done more in Vietnam than what they were telling the media. Back then, the New York Times controlled how much of he leaked details of the documents to show and what was right to tell the public. Having that issue alongside the WikiLeaks issue of today really drove the change home for me. It showed that while the Times is still telling the story, they don’t entirely control what gets out when anymore. Citizen journalists are putting the information out there. The media is responding to what is put out. In some ways, this is a good thing. It’s cheaper to have citizens recording things on their phones than to send journalists over to a location. However, the newspaper loses control. The people doing citizen journalism aren’t employed by the newspaper company. They will record whatever they think is most interesting or important and upload that for the world to see. And they don’t have the same idea of what’s fit to publish or objectivity as journalists do.
Just as with the invention of the radio and TV, there are whispers about whether print media will cease to exist. I don’t think that it will. Print media has adapted itself to the inventions of two major new technologies and managed to stay afloat. The challenges facing newspapers today are enormous, but they have already shown that they can adapt to compete with new technologies. It’s already happening. Many newspapers have decided to offer their paper online with a paid subscription in order to cope with the loss of advertising revenue. This shows that news can and will adapt to deal with new technologies. It is up to the journalists of today to decide how that adaptation will look like.