Democracy’s Final Hurrah?

Submitted by ub on Sun, 11/19/2017 - 06:42

I never want to see democracy’s final hurrah, and trust me neither do you. Believe me that I can tell you!

Years ago, I surprised a lot of people, including myself by making a career move from the dark side to a brighter side: After a lifetime of jaded journalism trenches starting with my very intense 3 months long full-time internship with The Washington Post and Newsweek, I was hired by NBC News, then management stints at Univision, Telemundo, VOA, News12 and The AP, where I finally took a buy out and moved into academia.

It was for a variety of reasons. Some were about safety, others out of frustrations with politics, plus I was not writing and reporting like I used to. I no longer enjoyed holding bad actors accountable in a news management way. It’s hard to say if I could stay in the reporter/editor/producer camp, but I was disillusioned being a media boss, particularly in the growing news landscape.

There is no doubt the decline of the newspaper industry has been difficult. No one is spared and revenues in digital advertising have not reached print rates. Google and Facebook are gobbling up what little advertising dollars exist in cyberspace. As a result, over the past 17 years, more than half the jobs have disappeared, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, in 2000, the newspaper industry hired 411K and now it’s around 173K.

In NYC, this decline means less local news, relative to what we once had. During my conversations with many journalists, and news veterans, most agree the quality of reporting is not what it used to be. In fact, less well-trained reporters translate to fewer news stories covered. Relative to other American cities, The Big Apple has a larger, more active press, with newspapers, TV, radio, and digital competing in a news ecosystem. And multilingual ethnic media becomes increasingly critical, for new immigrants to read, watch and hear, every year. But the loss is still profound. The Daily News, an influential tabloid that once circulated three million copies a day, no longer has any reporters covering the four outer boroughs. The New York Times has less than half the number of metro reporters it used to. The Wall Street Journal ended a New York City-focused section.

Today investigative reporters are scarce so, fewer journalists are scrutinizing politicians. Courtrooms and community boards are not being covered to inform local folks in their neighborhoods about what's really happening. Major news organizations are drastically revamping how they cover the news. They are devoting less space to single breaking news stories like local fires, thereby moving away from “incremental” to more “consequential” news. What does this mean? News organizations see themselves as global brands, so they produce news that will resonate with consumers across the nation and the world but not in their neighborhoods.

Back in the days, when there was a new local issue, I’d ask people on the street - what do you think about this? We called it the voice on the street or a vox pop and social media killed it. People now are pulling quotes from Twitter, but it’s dangerous. As we have seen, some are bots and therefore fake. But let me not stray.
HYPERLOCAL needs to stay that way for a free press to thrive by offering live, and late-breaking news that can’t be found elsewhere. There still exists a need to focus on local government, business, transportation, healthcare, and public education and local block parties.

Journalists must embrace local news reporting and they should pursue stories that are relevant to those neighborhoods because these are the folks who make our democracy function.
Gone too, are multiple mentorship opportunities for young journalists like me, or the one I used to be who initially learned from experienced reporters. If young people don’t compete with veterans they don’t earn their stripes as I did, then democracy may get lost.

There must be more local news and information reports about the truth and nothing but the truth. This is one of a journalist’s most important jobs. If we keep our neighbors informed our democracy continues growing. Some final words... Continue the exhaustive fact-checking process. AND ALWAYS VERIFY!

Associated Press Television News Story