So what's the goal?

Thoughts, and news about the News

There’s been a lot going on in the news cycle about the news cycle. Obviously, those of us in the business are closely monitoring President Carter, the war in Ukraine, the economy, George Santos, floods in California, tensions in China, Presidential bids, numerous plane and train near misses and not so near misses, and a myriad of other national and world stories. But on the inside there’s also been a lot of stories about how major media companies are consolidating, laying off teams, losing money, and failing at the basics of communication. It’s a wild time in media, and certainly in journalism.

My hometown newspaper closed at the start of this year, I can’t say I’m surprised as in the last decade they mostly printed death notices and ads for local businesses without much else, occasionally we’d get “It’s opening day of little league” or “The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Lineup” but these “stories” were few and far between. In the last two weeks there's been a shooting and a train derailment in town and no one to report on the details. It’s unfortunate, now citizens are relying on Facebook groups who are in turn reliant on digital stoop ladies or announcements directly from City Hall which are always suspect. Newspapers and local stations all across the country have been shutting down due to consolidation and the apparent belief by upper management that no one wants local news anymore. There is a money problem (so say the media moguls making billions and paying top talent millions) but there also becomes a knowledge problem, an activism problem, a voting problem (said much more eloquently here by the great Joel Cheatwood) and perhaps most importantly to me and my colleagues a “we can’t possibly do the job you’re asking us to do with this small amount of support” problem.

There is a problem in the industry as a whole in all forms of media, wherein people are being asked to do multiple jobs at once (partially due to automation) or being offered so little money that productions end up taking on wildly inexperienced personnel with no one to learn from and productions suffer as a consequence.There’s been recent threats of writer and crew strikes in Hollywood, we have seen injuries and even deaths on film sets due to inexpeirence and passing the buck, reporters being asked to become a one-man band (sometimes leading to their death or injuries-see my last post), and on a much larger scale MANY preventable on-air mistakes in live television. While injuries and death are usually few and far between (thank god and thank your unions) there is something a friend mentioned recently that I think most people don’t consider….journalists and their crews are often first responders. They are of course, not doing the same things as a firefighter, police officer, or EMT, but they are on the scene often as it unfolds, and are often troubled by what they see. Consider the idea that most networks run on a slight delay, so that if trouble unfolds live the viewer does not see it, consider things so troubling that we warn you before showing the viewer- these are all things our teams see and hear in the moment and then have to take home and process, and this isn’t necessarily even war reporting, it’s weather and workplace shootings, and riots on Capitol Hill. Those of us in the control room or edit booths are a bit further removed from it but the jobs are often jarring, and now many of us are doing what ten years ago would have been the work of 7 people but still getting the pay of 1, so what exactly are we getting out of this? Check out Nieman Lab’s recent point about highly skilled workers trying to make more than fast food employees.

What is baffling about all the “cost cutting” media outlets seem to be doing is that people seem willing to pay for their news according to the American Press Institute.

           Overall, the analysis finds that 60% of people younger than 40 already pay for or donate to news in some way. And people who pay for or donate to news comprised a majority in every age category we evaluated — it is not only most older Millennials or their younger Millennial counterparts who pay for or donate to news, but also Gen Z. The older they are, however, the more likely they are to pay or donate.

 

So are our corporate overlords lying? I mean probably, but to play devil’s advocate I totally understand the desire to make as much money for yourself and your shareholders as possible- but if what we are seeing is any indication the best way to do that may not be tinkering with your product and changing music cues and animation constantly, but actually investing in supporting your team AND listening to their ideas! The vast majority of people working in newsrooms, control rooms and studios at this point are the same group of people who have cut the cord and are getting their media from streaming or atypical sources and perhaps not the big names of the past, why then would the men and women trying to make news divisions profitable not at least hear them out?

We all want to go home at the end of the day feeling like we did a good job, having few or no on-air mistakes, having done a show or written an article we can be proud of, and yes we’d like to be paid appropriately for these things. Right now, most of us go home with multiple mistakes under our belt that could have been prevented by having proper staffing, or experienced writers, feeling incredibly stressed not only about the news of the day but about how many more new things we’ll need to take on in the coming months, or potentially losing our job to consolidation. We don’t feel like we have a voice and it ultimately seems to be making the world a worse place. So really, what is the goal here?

 

 

 

 

 

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