While I no longer make my living in local news, I believe in it. My husband and I travel several times a year and everywhere we go, I check out the local media. I usually lug an armful of newspapers and notes about local television and radio stations. Then I spend a few hours relishing in learning about some of the places we were or passed through like Madisonville, Tennessee. I enjoyed reading about their community and seeing the ad for “Sloans.”
When I read about layoffs in the newsroom at Gannett, I am dismayed. Who is going to tell people about the county commission’s debate on a tax increase? Who is going to run the picture of the winner of the flower show? How will you learn about road and school closings when the weather is bad? Yes, online platforms like Facebook and Twitter are used but who puts out that information? Many times, it’s local journalists.
Anyone can create a website and post anything these days. My husband and I were getting very upset I while watching Law and Order SVU the other night. A person with no journalistic training was running a website accusing a Congressman of sexual misconduct. He didn’t care about the truth nor did he vet his sources. While it did lead to a real crime, the alleged crimes were never proven and this guy showed he didn’t care about the truth. I won’t print a spoiler but things did not end well in that episode.
You can find a lot of websites like that one across the country. Call me old school, but I believe in getting both sides of the story and fact checking. Even some so-called legitimate media organizations have given into just getting the story out there so they can be first without checking the facts and the validity of their sources. The media used to be respected as the watchdog for the little guy and it has become more about getting clicks and being first. And we wonder why people don’t trust the media and are quick to label all of it “fake news.”
This doesn’t mean I ignore local media and work only on social media and other online platforms. I work with clients from all over the world and I love it. But when I start working with a business or organization, I always ask about their local and state media. I compile a list of the names of editors, news directors, and producers. I still send out traditional press releases, book broadcast interviews, and market online using social media and other tools. I make a lot of phone calls pitching my clients to local media sources, too.
About 80 percent of my work is online. But I still believe that the other 20 percent of my time spent working with local publications and broadcasters is just as important. My hope is that in the future, we will begin to see the value of not only telling our story to a worldwide audience but to our neighbors down the street.