Traditional news outlets are in decline. Daily newspapers and regional radio newsrooms that aren’t closing their doors altogether are drastically reducing staff and covering less local news.
The virtual extinction of beat reporters who tenaciously covered environment, labor, community health, immigration -- and the reduced funding for investigative journalism -- means the quality and depth of pieces on progressive justice issues via traditional television, radio and print news mediums is waning.
Local television coverage is reduced to shorter sound bytes in fewer and fewer pieces about local issues, as they seek to add international news to their half-hour broadcasts in some absurd effort to compete with the cable news giants.
In my work as a progressive communicator I, like so many of us, am striving to navigate the volatile and rapidly changing media landscape with an open, creative mind and a smile on my face.
Funny, how all this makes me think of my mom. In fact, I’ve been likening my exploration of emerging new media and web 2.0 tools to our many road trips in Mom’s old Rambler station wagon, exploring new terrain across southern California at the height of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl in the 1970s. It was a time when new neighborhoods, mini-malls and dead-end streets could replace old familiar landmarks like hills, groves of fruit trees and wetlands -- seemingly overnight.
Once when I dared to accuse Mom of being lost she stated firmly that we were NOT lost, but rather we were having an adventure! But as I pointed out to her in a particularly astute observation for a 6 year-old, sometimes one person’s adventure is another’s disaster!
To understand the true impact on grassroots communications it is vital to understand the many ways that local story placement has been central to strategic media efforts:
Listening to public television news veteran Jim Lehrer in his recent speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco reminded me of the challenges faced by those on the other side of the mic as well, and I knew my mom would remind me that we are all in this together, the journalist and the progressive communicator with the story to tell. Somehow the fate of important news will require in some way that me AND Jim, stand together, and, as my mother would put it, make some lemonade with the current lemons.
Adventure or disaster?
I listened intently last week to the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet’s hearing to ‘examine the future of journalism’ I noticed how indeed one witness’ adventure was another’s disaster. I appreciated Arianna Huffington’s reframing: “The discussion needs to move from “How do we save newspapers?” to “How do we strengthen journalism -- via whatever platform it is delivered?”
Now for progressive communicators, our question could be reframed as: how do we strengthen the voices of those seeking justice, via whatever platform their truth is delivered?” We need to work more as a community of practice to come to some answers, and I hope that PCN can provide a space for this important discussion. Here are a few suggestions from my experience:
So despite our sentimentality for the old, we must evolve with the times, experiment, multitask, even as we hold to the PR “staples” of traditional media for as long as audiences are there.
Invariably on the trips with Mom there were a lot of U-turns involved, but we saw lots of new sights, learned new things, had a great time and eventually found our way. I’m confident that we indeed will “find our way” in this evolving communications and media landscape.
Borrowing my Mom’s tenacious hope, I imagine we’ll arrive from this rocky road trip with truth, accuracy, journalistic integrity, justice and a more informed and empowered citizenry intact.
Article by Celia Alario