Keeping journalism alive, one step at a time
“Journalism is not defined by technology, by journalists or by the strategies they employ; rather, journalism encompasses the function that news plays in the lives of people.”
This insight from Elements of Journalism, an essential read from Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, is apt and to the point. At its core, journalism is a public service. Journalists are responsible for reporting the stories impacting society, and it’s up to each individual to seek out news without bias and to share all stories carefully.
In an era where content is available to consumers digitally and on the go, we can access news with just a few clicks and at any time during the day. It’s possible to follow stories as they unfold, and share them just as fast. The news comes in many forms, but one fact remains: without journalists and journalism advocacy, there would be no real news.
Journalists have experienced their fair share of hardships over the years. Now, perhaps more than ever, the industry is at an impasse. Trust in media continues to recover after a 2016 low, and a sharp decline in subscriptions has left outlets scrambling for alternate funding solutions. A recent study found that while the general public is aware of the problems facing traditional print publications, knowledge of the overall revenue crisis in journalism is low.
At CB&A, we value the relationships we’ve built with journalists and rely on the service journalism provides. For us, these relationships are truly a pivotal piece of our daily lives. A little bit of awareness goes a long way in supporting effective education public relations strategies. Without these hardworking folks, we wouldn’t be able to share the compelling stories our clients provide or generate buzz about the next big thing in edtech. So, with the help of some industry experts, we’ve compiled 5 ways everyone can support journalism.
#1 Journalism advocacy 101: Share quality reporting
To support the work that journalists are doing, proper visibility is vital. When you find a worthy article, share it.
“Share good journalism,” said Kathleen Bartzen Culver, James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “When you see a story that you think has a social impact, share it, and share why you think it matters.”
Whether it’s through your preferred social media platform, or in conversation with a colleague, sharing the news you consume brings immediate value to stories and recognition to those writing them.
“Social media is an incredible way for us to gauge the impact that our stories are making, and to amplify the work that journalists are putting in,” said Liz Willen, editor in chief at the Hechinger Report.
When sharing stories, it’s important to be conscious of bias and its impact. It’s worth taking time to research a publication before citing its stories as fact. Freelance journalist Wayne D’Orio recommends asking, “who is funding a site or outlet, and what is the influence there?”
With that information in mind, you become an informed reader. Create conversation surrounding news stories, and share sourced work when possible. An article or blog post that interests you is quite likely to be of interest to a friend or colleague, as well. So, remember: share the news that resonates. Remember, journalism advocacy can be as simple as clicking a share button like this one: Share this article on Twitter!
#2 Pay for the news you consume
“Journalists can’t get work done if they don’t have the revenue to do it,” Culver said.
Support worthy news outlets. As a consumer, the obvious answer is through subscriptions, and you’re right, but there are a variety of other ways to show support. Many news outlets have forgone subscription models in favor of different options. For example, the non-profit education outlet Hechinger Report is freely available and suggests you become a member to show support. Ultimately, remembering that there are people responsible for creating the news that you consume can be a good motivator.
“Hechinger Report is unique in that we are funded by foundations who are interested in supporting education reporting, though we maintain editorial independence from our funders,” Willen said. “Through the support of the foundations that fund us, we’re able to bring attention to how we can improve education, using stories as a platform for change.”
Companies and journalism have a symbiotic relationship. Without the media, companies would have difficulty sharing the news. News outlets need company support, too. Organizations can support outlets through advertising or sponsorship opportunities. If banner ads aren’t your thing, native advertising is one alternative to help your company rise above the noise while remaining true to your brand.
A word to the wise: not all promotional opportunities are created equal. While most outlets are explicit in identifying an opportunity as advertising, some operate in a sneakier manner. We experienced this first-hand with a suspicious Forbes opportunity.
As a final note, consider disabling ad blockers, at least when visiting reputable sites…hear us out. About 47 percent of U.S. internet users utilize ad blocking software, and experts say this can be detrimental to online media outlets who rely on ads to keep their news freely available.
#3 Diversify your news consumption
As of early 2016, 57 percent of American adults expressed a clear preference for getting their news on a screen, although the screen type varied. Online accessibility has been a blessing and a curse for news outlets, with some adapting successfully to the digital world, while others fizzle out. By exploring different outlets, both print and online, one can easily stay current and informed on myriad topics. By relying on more than one publication or outlet, readers and viewers can gain a broader perspective on current events.
D’Orio reflects, “I sometimes wonder whether people are choosing to be in an echo chamber, or if they feel like they are seeking out different, fair news?”
Most of us tend to have a personal preference when it comes to local news or politically charged news organizations, which makes keeping an open mind and exploring alternatives an interesting challenge.
#4 Support local news
Local news often features the stories we may not have heard about, yet should know about. Local journalism invigorates and supports the community in a way that national and even regional news outlets can’t replicate. Building relationships with local journalists can help stories be heard and can bring attention to issues that may go unnoticed without the local spotlight.
“Journalists tell hard stories. What they do is important. And what happens when journalists are not watching can be very dangerous,” Culver said.
Between 2008 and 2017, newsroom jobs of all types fell by 23 percent, but local newspapers saw the bottom fall out – down 45 percent in just nine years. Without journalism advocacy campaigns, local journalism will have to adapt.
“As newspaper advertising revenue continues to decline, it has become important for outlets to seek out alternative means,” Willen said.
This decline means that local outlets are joining the battle in finding new revenue models, turning to creative, non-subscription methods like community events.
Though consumer support is extremely valuable, some of the responsibility lies with community businesses and organizations. “If I were a CEO or thought leader,” Culver reflected, “I’d ask myself: ‘what does my business do to support journalism?’ Do we advertise in local media?’”
From a business standpoint, investing in local news is an investment in the community. Whether it’s through a sponsorship, subscription or advertising, local media deserves at least as much attention as the big national outlets.
Of course, support for local news varies from city to city and is dependent on many factors. Check out the local news dynamics in your community to embrace journalism advocacy on the small scale.
#5 Become an advocate
Perhaps the most effective way to support journalism is to advocate for the industry. Engage in a dialogue with friends, family, and co-workers on the importance of news. Or, participate in journalism through op-eds, letters to the editor and event postings. Engage with journalists via social media or email, and submit tips if you have a great story that deserves a larger audience.
“Journalism is one of the checks and balances that we need as a society, so we can try to let people know what’s going on in a straightforward way,” D’Orio said.
If there are causes that are important to you, write about them. “In recent years, I’ve seen more students pursuing activist journalism,” Culver said. “My students want to use journalism as a tool to bring attention to what’s important, and what could be beneficial information for society.”
And that really resonates with us – so we’re sharing it. And with that said, here are a few final words on Journalism Advocacy from our industry experts:
“We cover inequality and innovation in education. Our journalists are the most passionate, hardworking people I’ve met, and we’re on a mission to keep the public informed about how education can be improved, and why it matters. We’re not the enemy of the people. Support journalism, support your journalists.” – Liz Willen
“I think the future of journalism is getting brighter. More people are paying attention, so there are just lots of different outlets, as more people want access to better news, especially online news. To me, journalism is back on the upswing.” – Wayne D’Orio
“Speak positively about journalism – bite back at fake news. It’s important for the people of a community to have the information they need. It’s not about our individual interests, it’s about community interests overall.” – Katy Culver
What do you think about the state of journalism today?
Share this article on Twitter with your thoughts and the hashtag #JournalismAdvocacy and we’ll jump into the conversation together.
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