Thursday, June 28, 2012

Discussion # 5, Political Reporting

The Munro Institute would like to thank Western Washington University president Bruce Shepard for delivering the keynote address. We agree with President Shepard that the revenue system in Washington state may have provided for our needs in a bygone era, but as the economic conditions change, revenue sources must adapt.

The increasing reliance on digital communications and the recent economic environment have to drastically affected the news media industry and the discussion by our panelists from yesterday (6/27/2012) clearly reflected that.

Digital communications have created the need to provide the news in multiple delivery formats. The audiences have changed as well, and the news industry is adapting to their changing consumption patterns. There are less political reporters in Olympia as declining advertising dollars and tight budgets prevents news organizations from maintaining full-time reporters there. The panelists clearly outlined the challenges they face as a result of these changes.

Austin Jenkins agreed that there are many challenges the industry faces. He felt that while there might be many new aspects to news delivery in the future forcing media outlets to adapt, the quality of news reporting was actually getting better as result, saying it is now more focused and less redundant.

Joel Connelly and Pat Callaghan then presented us with very different views of the current status of news reporting.

Connelly feels the contraction of the news industry had been detrimental to news reporting. There are fewer reporters covering the government in Olympia, and fewer people in general covering the news. With less coverage, the public has less access to information, and reporters are forced cover a wider variety of stories preventing them from covering any one story very deeply.

Pat Callaghan rejects the “death of the newspaper” tome, saying that while there may be less printed news, the News Tribune has more readers today than it ever had, albeit many reading online. He agreed with Austin Jenkins in that the quality of reporting is better, and there are less redundant stories.

The differing views of the panelist seems to give us a logical topic for discussion.

Do you feel that the “death of the newspaper” also reflects a decline in the news industry in general?  How do you obtain your news? Is this different from the way your parents obtained their news? Do we face an increase in the problem of self-censorship, with a seemingly enlightened public who in reality obtains news from a wide a variety sources, yet ones with very narrow viewpoints? Are you worried that we receive less actual news and this hinders us in making informed decisions, or do we simply need to be more savvy consumers of the news?

I look forward to reading your comments.


  1. While it is true that employment has been cut down for journalists and Newspaper companies, that does not necessarily mean that the Newspaper industry is dead. True, there are less people reading the printed versions of newspapers, according to Peter Callaghan. However, Peter Callaghan also let us know a secret about the newspaper industry. He also said that the newspaper industry is doing better than it ever has before! True, the newspaper is earning less money, but they are spending less money as well. The amount of readers has never been higher, due to the diversity of articles published. No more newspapers rushing to get the same story out and having the readers read the same story over and over.

    The Newspaper industry must reach out to as much of their audience as possible. In an ever growing technologically advancing world, the majority of customers are reading their news online. So the newspaper must implement a way to reach them. Peter Callaghan stated that the number of readers online has never been higher.

    As for people reading the news that they want to hear, I think that this is absolutely true as well. People want to hear what they want to hear, and if that means that they are going to listen or read from a news website that provides skewed news, then they will.

    Also, I obtain my news from online newspapers. My parents used printed newspapers

    1. Your perspective mirrors that of the panelist Peter Callaghan in that he believes that the shift from print to online is taking control but it is not necessarily detrimental to the continuation of the news business. I agree with that statement but I would also add to it and mention there will always be that core of true newspaper readers! Most newspaper companies embrace the new wave of technology and their businesses reap the benefits, as you said, but I challenge the credibility of the newspaper business doing better than before, especially when the newspaper was the only source of news. So, how much are the newspapers really hurting? Newspaper businesses are doing better since the steep cutting of prints, not better than they ever had...

  2. While it is true that the number of newspapers being printed is decreasing, the news industry is not going out of business. Peter Callaghan repeated throughout the panel discussion that his business and several others were holding steady. I can say, my parents are still subscribing to the Olympian even they they both have access to laptop computers. The availability of news online has affected the newspaper industry though, one cannot pretend it has not, but the fact of the matter is, there will always be some people who prefer physically holding and reading the news on a piece of paper with a cup of joe in their hand. I myself get my news from the credible sources of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both of whom give comical slants to interesting stories. When I force myself to, I watch Fox News or MSNBC to see what other news there is in the world, but both of those stations prefer to spin the issue to make the "other guy" look like the villain. Most newspaper businesses have made the adjustment of online news and have done so with an increasing profit margin and a good eye for the right news. The problem with most widely broadcasted news sources is that they from far sides of the spectrum, if readers want a moderate news source they would have to turn off the TV, which is hard enough for some Americans, and pick up a credible paper or do a hard search on the web, or watch Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert... And to emphasize my point earlier, newspapers will continue to be printed, they will decrease the numbers, sure, but they won't cut out the paper completely. My parents, along with most members in my family, prefer their news from newspapers and Stewart and Colbert and I have no objection picking up a paper every now and then.

  3. This post was basically what I expected. It was fun to read, and I appreciate that you get your news from other stations. There are many in this country that only pay attention to one newspaper or news channel, which I find at the least, narrow minded. Who said that they prefer to read a physical newspaper. I am trying to remember... I'll figure it out. But I thought that it was funny that you watch The Colbert Report and The Daily Show also!! I don't know if I believe what Callaghan said. When he said that he thinks that the Newspaper industry is doing better than ever, I could not see how this could work if no one was buying physical newspapers anymore. Food for thought. Good post!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Both Jon and Michael agree that while newsprint is down, the news industry still remains strong. My question would be, if there is less actual news, and less in depth reporting going on than in the past, how would you know?

      What evidence is there that there was in depth reporting, or that we have lost in depth reporting?

      In an open society, it is the responsibility of an informed electorate to ensure that government does not operate in a vacuum. I would have to do some personal research to ascertain if what Peter Callaghan said about there simply being less redundant reporting is true. I hope this is the case, there certainly has been redundant reporting that has been prevalent throughout the industry for a long time.

  4. On e point that was left out of the discussion in this panel was the effect of advertising dollars on the news industry. News organizations survive on advertising. As the industry becomes more diverse, there will be an evolution and adaptation process. The industry will then settle into a new era. The news outlets that can adapt, will survive.

    My guess is that there will be many more, smaller news outlets. As certain ones become popular, they too will be able to sell advertising and grow larger.

    The challenge that we face as readers is that we will have to be much more careful in selecting news sources, and vetting them to ensure they present the news in a reputable manner.

    1. I think it will be really interesting to see how the industry transforms to save its advertising funding.

      I know one of the problems that internet news faces is how to get ads seen on a website. Some of the forms they use now, such as ads on the side bar or imbedded videos, are not attractive to advertisers because most consumers are really good at ignoring them. With news videos it has become a little easier by placing an ad before the video, but there are still issues with word stories. Some sites now charge money for viewing stories--however as one of the panelist said, it is becoming more and more evident that consumers do not want to pay for their online news. I was thinking about this and I think a smart idea for online news may be to make readers watch a few advertisements before reading a selected amount of news stories. This may tick off some readers, but probably not as much as making them pay for it.

  5. I agree with Callaghan in that the news industry is not necessarily ‘dead’, it is only undergoing a frame shift to online news reading. I have a propensity to gain insight on my news from a plethora of sources that are not limited to just one source. I am not inclined to carry a 10-page newspaper around with me all day. I just find it more accessible to read my news online, where as my grandparents like to have the physical newspapers in their hands as they drink tea. I am not one to use television as a primary source for obtaining news, albeit it is nice to hear what their viewpoints are. Contrarily, my mother has a high tendency to completely trust television news sources. My father obtains his news via online, television, and hard newspaper copies. But in general, I do not find the news industry eradicating, but I see that the industry is under a positive reform that allow it to be more accessible for readers to obtain and analyze information more thoroughly. The truth is, some have gained, like for Austin Jenkins--the public radio broadcaster--and for others there have been losses, like for Joel Connelly who says that we have fewer reporters. News is becoming more accessible via facebook, blogging, tweeting, online reports etc. Yes, I would argue that we do face a problem with self-censorship. I recollect in my senior seminar class for modernity reconsidered, we talked about the civilization of discourse, where we concluded that in our society today there seems to be a tendency to form like-minded groups (Facebook groups, friend circle) that are not open to open-minded viewpoints. In essence, we argued that perhaps we are becoming more selective with our choices and perhaps now our news sources. Al the reporters in this panel all agreed that it is about telling news that people want to hear to try and keep people engaged without sounding repetitive. Peter argues that today there are fewer stupider stories told, like reporting a story that talked about the revenue status 6 hours before the release. Peter articulated that we essentially are broadcasting/writing the same story. The positive to this 24-hour accessibility to news is that we the reporters can update their stories instantaneously, however, there sometimes are negative redundant celebrity culture news. I believe we have the resources to obtain the news and are savvy consumers, but it just depends on the individual. The individual may want to read news that is entirely focused on their viewpoint and they just need the news to back their claims. Or they may read celebrity culture news and stay uninformed about the world. I remember in my sociology class a student once stated that in LA, people will report redundant stories about celebrities to lure away the public from the actual news. Hence, the public that limited their sources to just the television were probably inclined to make uninformed decisions. In reality, to make informed decisions, people should not limit their sources to one or two, but they should expand their scope to read a variety of viewpoints and sources.

  6. Excellent comments Aman. I agree that the news industry is not "dead", but merely going through a broad transition. How do we get people to actually broaden what they select to read? Even if there is more news, and different sources, people seem to be using this to self-censor. So, it doesn't matter if you 40 sources if they all say the same thing. If you lived in New York City in the past, all you had to do was read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and you really did get to broadly different views, and probably were more informed than most people are today.

  7. Agreeing with the posts above, we know that there is less in depth reporting on one issue but rather the news industry is covering a plethora of issues. We know this because Peter Callaghan stated that various news reporters are essentially writing parallel stories on an issue. Additionally, because of the 24-hour access to news reports, reporters are on demand to write different set of issues than focus entirely on one. More importantly, the panelists agreed that in the past, the public would often rely on one source for obtaining daily news, whereas today, we can Google a story and we will receive multiple links to alternative sources that have reported on the searched issue.

    Regarding Marc's comment about Peter Callaghan statement for reporting less redundant news, I know that Joel Connelly argued alternatively that there are often celebrity stories to grasp public attention. I would agree in that whenever I pull up MSNBC (my home page) for the internet, I usually see some celebrity story in the top news. So, I agree I would have to delve deeper into the subject and gain some research insight as to how true that is.

    Going back to Michael's comment, I would argue that The Jon Stewart Show should not be used a primary credible source. I think it is nice to watch the show and gain some insight on information. Newspapers will continue to print, but would you argue with the generation of technology, where communication is at the touch of our fingers, how likely is it for the newspaper to stay in the long term? Maybe they will last for a few more decades, but, as news is becoming more accessible, the future generations I expect will want the article instantaneously!

  8. I agree with Aman and Marc that the newspaper industry is not "dead," but it has been going through a huge transition in the last couple decades. In addition to the newspaper and radio, we can now obtain our information 24-hours a day from the millions of sources on television and the internet. In this way we now have more information than ever. However, its still a question in my mind of whether we are getting the best information possible. There is a trend of local newspapers, instead of having one of their own reporters get a story, they will pay for stories from other newspaper and the AP wire. I notice this all the time in the Bellingham Herald where a whole section of the paper is AP news stories or a big story that could have been reported on by someone in Bellingham is instead taken from a newspaper in Anacortes. Peter Callaghan may say this is good because there is less redundant news, and though I see that this is more efficient, I can't help but think it is always better to have an issue looked at from multiple perspectives.

    I am not sure if its true that there is less in-depth reporting because I see this in papers like the Wall Street Journal and magazines like the Atlantic and the Economist. Yet, I don't think the majority of the population are reading from these sources. In this way, I agree with Jon that people will get the news they want to hear. There is no doubt in my mind that this is tied to our education--if there were a larger educated population there would be more people that would read in-depth articles about issues.

    I heard my parents complaining about the reporting in our local newspaper and so I asked them why they still subscribe and they simply replied they are creatures of habit. I know this is true for a lot of the older generation who grew up reading newspapers. For this reason I don't see the newspaper industry dying out quickly. However, our generation is used to obtaining our news through the television and internet, so I believe, like Aman, it's hard to tell if paper editions will survive.

    I watched a really interesting Ted Talks about whether design can save the newspaper ( which reminded me of this discussion. In many Eastern European countries, designed have taken over the reigns of formatting the news and it has had tremendous effects on newspaper readership. The whole paper, especially the front page, has more illustrations. The designers transformed the newspaper partially into a piece of art and it has attracted a lot of new readers. I thought this was extremely interesting and I think it would work in the U.S. with attracting the younger generation towards printed news.

    1. I agree that it feels like the newspaper industry is slightly dying out. I feel as though our parent's generation is going to be the last that really follow the newspaper habit. I also agree that the newspapers are not "dying" but just undergoing a shift in the way the information is given to the public, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. With the "newspaper industry dying out quickly", do you think in the next twenty years we will still have them being printed?

  9. I wouldn’t say that the newspapers are “dead” by any means. Joel Connelly talked about how there are far fewer political writers than previously, and issues like the presidential race, marijuana, and gay marriage rights are covered all the time. But issues like gang land battles up North, and how 502 on the ballot will lower crime is neglected. Peter Callaghan rejected the depth that newspapers put forth, but he said that there are more readers today then we have ever had. So issues are being discussed, but not in the full depth they deserve, yet readers are still consuming.

    As time goes by technology advances, this is simply the way of life. If you don’t keep up with it, you are left behind. Austin Jenkins talked about how he didn’t even know what a blog was when he first began in the political field, it was strictly radio for him. Now, there are blogs, twitter, and online journals. He said that this has caused him to work hard and smart and it has made him better.

    What worries me is that the general public is receiving their news from the television, from places like FOXX news and CNN. I believe news stations tend to be biased and air exactly what they want the public to see and believe. In this way, we are forced to be “savvy consumers of the news”. I receive my daily news from Democracy Now online and from the New York Times online. Yes, this is different from how my parents received their news (newspapers), but like I said, it is advancement in the times. I believe online news journals and things like that will advance our public awareness of the news because they have an opportunity to go way more in depth with stories, and to have the option to view similar stories that relate to the topic they are searching. So no, the news industry is not dying, it is just adjusting to a new way of producing the news to a more technologically advanced generation.