A journalist walks into a consulate – but doesn’t walk out

By: Benjamin Conboy

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was getting married. Being a Saudi citizen living in Virigina with a Turkish fiancé, he had to retrieve the necessary documents to get married from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

His fiancé stayed in the car while Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and a critic of the Saudi government, went inside. He never came out.

Turkish officials proclaimed that the Saudis killed Khashoggi inside the consulate. They said a 15-person Saudi team flew into Istanbul the day he disappeared. CNN reported Thursday that US intelligence intercepts show the Saudis had previously tried to lure Khashoggi back to the kingdom to arrest him.

A senior Turkish official quoted in the New York Times said the team had dismembered Khashoggi inside the consulate, using a bone saw that they had brought for that express purpose.

Turkish officials are incensed and are seeking to search the consulate, which the Saudis are holding up, citing anonymous security concerns. Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “There will be hell to pay” if the Saudis did in fact kill him. Sen. Marco Rubio said that if true, “what’s going to happen on Capitol Hill is a complete revolt against our policies with Saudi Arabia.” President Donald Trump said his administration is “looking at it very, very seriously.”

The intrigue into what happened to Khashoggi has reached the upper echelons of our government and of the international community.

But where was the concern for Raif Badawi, another Saudi journalist who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam,” who nearly lost his life as a result of the punishment?

Suddenly Turkey, a country which has been no great friend to the free press, is now concerned for a journalist who has been a critic of their geopolitical foe. There wasn’t much concern from the Turks for Ahmet Hakan, a Turkish columnist who had been followed home by four men in a black car and beaten within an inch of his life just weeks after the state denounced his publication as “terrorist propaganda.”

Here in the U.S., with all of our laws and our beloved First Amendment, journalists aren’t dismembered in government buildings or followed home by men in black cars. But since the beginning of the Trump era, the U.S. has backslid into using the same type of rhetoric that authoritarian governments use toward journalists.

One sign we haven’t exactly been the bastion of free speech we used to be is that the United Nations human rights council said Trump’s attacks on the press “increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.”

That same week, Eric Trump shared a video of Trump supporters at a rally, surrounding the press box like an angry mob screaming expletives at reporters. The son of the president was sharing the video not as a condemnation, but as an abettor.

The president’s rhetoric has not been contained by the United States’ borders. When confronted with a report that his regime had executed 13,000 prisoners of war, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad said it was “fake news.” An official in Myanmar likewise called the well-documented genocide of the Rohingya “fake news.” An op-ed in the leading communist newspaper in China said, “Trump is right, fake news is the enemy, something China has known for years.”

Sen. Jeff Flake acknowledged the co-opting of Trump’s rhetoric on the Senate floor on Thursday. “Oppressors of the world have taken to parroting their favorite lines from the White House,” he said.

Journalists have already started to fight back in America. More than 200 newspapers across the country joined forces and published an editorial denouncing Trump’s “enemy of the people” attacks on Aug. 16.

But while the rhetoric towards journalists in America damages the public’s opinion of them, journalists are not being given 1,000 lashes for doing their job as they are in other parts of the world. It is high time that the journalists of the world stand together in the face of violent rhetoric and violent actions.


Engagement reporting: the antidote to media skepticism?

By: Marissa Nelson

Newsrooms build relationships (and trust) in communities through events, social media and special projects

In the era of “fake news” and heightened distrust of anonymous sources, the public is skeptical of the media.

This year a Knight Foundation and Gallup study found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. adultssaid their trust in the news media has decreased over the past decade. However, 69 percent of respondents felt their trust could be restored.

The question, then, is how?

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethicsaddresses many of the concerns Americans have including inaccuracy, bias and accountability of the media. And most news organizations concerned about maintaining the public’s trust adhere to industry standards. So it seems that there isn’t a break down in media ethics, but little understanding of the reporting process.

Enter engagement journalism.

Engagement — formerly thought to be about website clicks, retweets and Facebook likes — has transformed into an idea better explained by its goal rather than its process.

Community engagementputs readers’, viewers’ and citizens’ interests at the center of the work a news organizations does. This means finding ways to report on topics most important to readers, involving viewers in the reporting process and finding ways to get stories in to the hands of citizens most affected by the news.

Engagement looks different for every newsroom because it revolves around the needs of individual communities. Nonetheless, each project seeks to collaborate and build relationships with readers. Turning away from a one-way communication model, engagement reporting invites citizens to participate in journalism.

For instance, in 2012 Jennifer Brandel started Curious Cityat WBEZ. The project invites listeners to submit questions about the city, and reporters find the answers. Instead of assuming what the public is interested in WBEZ asks listeners directly.

This model proved to be effective in not only building relationships but also expanding WBEZ’s reach. The project brought in over 10,000 more listener email addressesand led to some of WBEZ’s most popular stories. Three years after starting the project, Brandel co-founded Hearkento bring the model to other newsrooms.

Social media can also be used to foster engagement. In 2016 Vox created a Facebook Groupfor people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, fostering a space for journalists and readers to exchange information. The group now has over 6,000 members and continues to be a space readers look to for information and conversation.

Some news organizations are even turning to events to engage their communities.

This year ProPublica Illinois began working with Free Street Theatre to hold workshops across the state. The workshop uses theatre exercises to talk about issues like the economy, media representation and changing demographics at a local level.

As an Illinois news outlet based in Chicago, the workshops allow ProPublica Illinois to learn about the communities — outside of Chicago — it will be reporting on. It is a space for reporters to listen to the community and learn what matters most to them. For example, in Toulon, a city with a declining population, workshop leaders Logan Jaffe and Coya Paz learned that some residents fear it won’t exist in 20 years.

The workshop also serves as an opportunity for the publication to introduce itself to Illinoisans and begin building relationships with them.

Similarly, City Bureau, a journalism lab on Chicago’s South Side, began holding weeklyPublic Newsroomsin a coffee shop next to its newsroom in 2017. The purpose of the Public Newsroomis to create a space for ideas to be exchanged. Here, reporters and community members learn from one another, talking about issues like crime reporting, gun trafficking and the stigma surrounding mental health.

Through each workshop, City Bureau connects with new community members — over 1,200 since its inception — and provides an opportunity to discuss reporting practices, processes and ethics. The event doesn’t shy away from criticizing its own industry and imagining how it can be improved.

How does the media portray the South Side? Is it fair? Why was a source used? How did the reporter access the documents they referenced?

These are all fair and welcomed topics of conversation at the Public Newsroom.

Other news organizations, like Mississippi Today, have begun collaborating with City Bureau, bringing Public Newsrooms to their communities. At 14 East, DePaul University’s online magazine, we have begun holding monthly Public Newsrooms, too.

Engagement reporting, though, doesn’t have to be an event series or groundbreaking project. Or at least it doesn’t start that way. It begins by using the resources available (something as simple as Twitter) to ask citizens two questions: What matters to them and what do they need to know?

From there, it’s up to reporters to do what they can to answer those questions.



Maureen Orth on her career, empathy and working on the fly

By Emma Krupp

Earlier this month, I received an unexpected call from a number with a Washington, D.C. area code while wrapping up the final hour of a work shift. Bending beneath my desk surreptitiously, I listened to the voicemail: It was Maureen Orth, famed reporter and Vanity Fair correspondent, and she wanted to talk now.

“I’m going to be traveling tomorrow,” she said. “Sometimes in this industry you have to be ready for the thing when it happens.”

Orth, whose 50-year career has taken her from Newsweek to Vogue and more, knows a thing or two about working on the fly. Her career in journalism began in the late ‘60s after she grew bored in a master’s program for Latin American studies — following a stint in Colombia for the Peace Corps, school seemed dry and dull. Instead, she happened upon a program in documentary and journalism studies at the University of California – Los Angeles (“In the course catalog, right near ‘L’ for Latin America was ‘J’ for journalism,” she said) and enrolled on a whim. Soon after, she scored her first major article with the San Francisco Chronicle-Observer, a piece on the “dope lawyers of San Francisco.”

“I really was convinced that I didn’t know how to write,” Orth said. “I said, ‘You want a story about the dope lawyers of San Francisco?’ And they go, ‘Yeah, can you write?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, I can write,’ never knowing if I could or not. And so that’s how it started.”

Since then, Orth has amassed a jaw-dropping list of interview credits — Vladimir Putin, Madonna, Mohamad Al Fayed — and with that, endless anecdotal curios. There was the time, for instance, when she got her first editing lesson as a young reporter from “Roots” author Alex Haley. Or when Karl Lagerfeld, surrounded by the opulence of his large apartment, broke down about the death of his longtime partner. Or even when Margaret Thatcher, in her first interview after being voted out of office, told her that her life had been “shattered.”

“All I could think in my head was headline, headline, headline,” Orth said.

In her reporting process, Orth adheres to a formula she calls “Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy, Polite, Prepared, Persistent” (EEEPPP, like a scared-sounding exclamation, for short). Being a reporter means doing your research, and listening, and being honest when you don’t understand and — especially now — engaging with sources on an interpersonal, nondigital level.

“You need to get on the telephone, you need to do the shoe leather work,” she said. “You need to get on the phone and go talk to them as human beings in person, or you have to develop a rapport over the telephone and hear their voices.”

Orth frequently writes about fraught subject matter and makes no obfuscations about where she stands, offering candid assessment about the sex abuse scandals of Michael Jackson (“I happen to think he’s a pedophile”) and Woody Allen (“I believed Dylan [Farrow] from the beginning”). But personal opinions, she added, shouldn’t affect a reporter’s empathy or the shrewdness with which they approach each source.

“Even if you’re dealing with people that you’re not on the same side that they’re on, you have an obligation to listen to what they have to say,” Orth said. “And then you can go back and forth with them, but you’re not being deceptive. If you think someone is not telling the truth, you can say, ‘Wait a second. Are you trying to tell me this and this and this? Come on.’”

In addition to writing for Vanity Fair, Orth runs a charity in Colombia — that’s where she was heading when we first exchanged emails a few weeks before our interview. Later, she offered a halfway apology for calling me out of the blue, then stopped herself. As an aspiring journalist, I should learn to expect the unexpected, she said. It’s a lesson that’s served her well throughout her career.

“It’s partially luck,” she said. “But when opportunity comes knocking, you [have to be] capable of responding.”






All paths lead to one

By Darrah Perryman

It’s just past noon on an almost-summer afternoon and Sarah Kustok is racing through the corridors of New York City, nonchalantly competing with the clock to beat her daily deadline. Though the train’s whistle is dancing with the summer’s howl through the phone, Kustok’s voice is calm and focused, piercing through the never-ending chaos that comes with the job.

“I pour my heart and soul into this,” she said. “I never even visualized this job as an opportunity, as an option for me.”

Because before Kustok, this wasn’t a reality for women.

Today she reigns as the first solo female sports analyst for the NBA, a feat that she earned with talent and resilience in the industry.

“For a long time it was a ton of grinding and trying to figure out how to make ends meet,” she recollected on her first few years. “It’s such a competitive field … often times your starting point may not be worth the time and effort and education you put into it.”

And for most recent college graduates, that’s typical. Kustok started at ESPN driving players around, getting coffee for staff and doing other atypical tasks. She recalls sometimes working several jobs at a time and constantly putting her work outto gain opportunities.      Even though she relished every minute, it came with doubts.“It tests you. There were plenty of moments throughout my career that I had to sit and think, ‘Is this definitely my path?’”

Her concerns were valid, and journalism was not Kustok’s first love. It was basketball, right here at DePaul University. In fact, she almost took a position overseas to play professionally for two years.

Sometimes, she plays the “what if” game with herself, and momentarily peers down the path not taken. But in this life, there’s no going back.

“I don’t believe in regrets. All things happen for a reason. You learn from different experiences, and I believe this is what I should be doing right now.”

The experiences Kustok had as an athlete and her love for reading and writing have melded, helping her to forge a dream job. After ESPN, Kustok continued working in Chicago before moving to YES network in New York, where she worked as a sideline reporter for five years before getting the historic promotion last year.

Still, the added pressure of being the first woman in her role is not something Kustok obsesses over.“I often try not to think about being the only female when looking at this job or how I approach the work I’m doing,” she said.

And for Kustok, being the best she can be is the most important thing. She takes pride in showing up and being as prepared as possible, which is a piece of advice she stresses on to young aspiring journalists.

“What’s next?” I ask, half expecting her to reveal another dream or soon-to-be accomplishment on the verge of reality. Instead, she pauses, letting the silence on the other end of the line settle and thicken, and says humbly, “I don’t know. But I’m okay with that.”



86 Tapes Later

by Emmanuel Camarillo

Alex Perez is a native Chicagoan who visits his childhood barrio of Pilsen whenever he has the chance. “That’s the neighborhood that raised me,” he says, “I still have friends I grew up with there.” Journalism and the stories he loves to tell have taken him far from his colorful corner of the city. Perez reported at KVIA-TV in El Paso Texas and later at NBC Chicago. His stories range from presidential elections to hurricanes in the Caribbean. He traveled across Europe as part of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship to bolster his knowledge of the regions political backdrop.

But The Second City beckons and even after all the travel Perez still remembers that McDonalds in Pilsen that’s on Cermak and Western. “That was like the first McDonalds I’d ever seen in my entire life. When I was a kid we’d go there all the time.” As if it were some Mecca for the kids who grew up in Pilsen It turns out we frequented the same McDonalds as children. It’s also not the only thing I found we had in common when I had the chance to speak to the now ABC News national correspondent.

EC: I want to start off by asking what made you want to become a reporter?

Alex Perez: There’s no one short easy answer to that but I can tell you that I was one of those people who kind of fell in love with the idea of journalism early on. In fifth grade we had to write a paper. We were given a picture and you had to write what you thought would be the associated story to that picture. My picture in Mr. Burns classroom was of a soldier’s coffin covered in an American flag. I got an A+ on that assignment and I had to read it in front of the entire classroom.

There was something about the idea of relaying a story and sort of being that messenger that I kind of fell in love with at that point. And the idea that someone was relying on you to be the messenger, that what you were gonna say was gonna help them decide what they were gonna do that day or how they felt about something. They trusted you with this belief that you would be honest in relaying that information to them. I just felt that responsibility was something that I really wanted to be a part of.

EC: Since you pretty much knew what you wanted to do at a young age, what did you expect getting into the business? Were you surprised by what you found?

 Alex Perez: I didn’t know what to expect, I knew that it was gonna be different than some of my colleagues and fellow students. I went to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and I had friends who were in business and finance so before graduating a lot of them already had jobs in their fields. That was not the case for me or really any of the journalism students. I was worried about it and I didn’t know what to expect.

I decided in the middle of college that I wanted to do broadcast as opposed to print. I did well and I excelled when I was in school. I had internships in small markets and big markets but I graduated and could not find a job. I was searching for a job for about a year. I sent out 86 resume tapes.

My first job, a year after I graduated, 86 tapes later, was in market 208 which is one of the smallest television news markets in the country. I made $13,000 a year and lived in a part of the country that wasn’t exactly welcoming to minorities or people who didn’t look like them. You could make that amount without going to college, so I felt in many ways, am I making the right decision?

I was the first one in my family to go to college so I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me to be the successful one. Telling your family, I got a job and I’m making $13,000 a year but I’m getting to live my dream isn’t exactly what they wanted to hear. But I kept at it and I was able to get a job in a different market over there.

EC: Given how hard it was for you to kind of break into the industry, what advice would you give to those from a similar background that want to pursue journalism but realize that the road is long and might not be that fruitful in the beginning?

 Alex Perez: When I got those 85 rejections I remember I would put those letters on my wall and it would be the first thing I would see every morning. A lot of people thought that’s depressing why would you do that but for me it was more motivation.

Right below those on the wall I would put down sayings, quotes, verses, things that would make me feel like I’m not alone and this is eventually going to work out. One of my favorites was one from Maya Angelou that said, “don’t make money your goal instead pursue the things you love doing and do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

Other people will give up and you’ll lose them along the way because journalism is the kind of business that, if you’re in it for the glamour or the glitz and the big paychecks, you’re gonna have a hard time early on. You’re gonna quickly realize that’s not a part of it

If you enjoy what it is to tell a story, to investigate, to relay information, those things are fruitful in a form of payment in their own way. They don’t pay the bills, but they do pay that sort of emotion and that part of your brain that you need to pay as well.

EC: Along those lines is there a story that you keep going back to or that you still carry with you?

 Alex Perez: The first story that I remember feeling like our work as journalists has a purpose was when I was working in New Mexico. There was a woman who needed a medical procedure she was initially told was not covered by her insurance. She could not afford her procedure and was becoming really ill. We profiled her story and it turned out she was in the right and it was something the insurance company was doing incorrectly.

As a result of our story she was able to get the medical attention and the help that she needed. It made me realize that any story can be life or death for someone. While stories come and go and we interview people all the time, that moment when they talk to you, when they pour their heart out to you, means the world to them and it can always be a matter of life or death to someone.

You have to respect it and treat it that way no matter what. I think when you have that perspective, when you bring that to the table, when you’re working on something it really makes every story memorable because every story has an element of that somewhere.


Poor pay. Long hours. No respect. Best job ever.

By Jonathan Ballew

Rob Rainey is worried about the future of journalism.

And Rainey is certainly a subject matter expert. Over the last five decades Rainey has worked with just about every legacy media organization — it would be easier to list the places he hasn’t worked because there would be so few.

Rainey might even be the most senior working photojournalist in the country. Starting while still in high school, Rainey has been behind a camera to help report the news for 52 years.

“I feel like a dinosaur,” he said.

When Rainey started, he had a black and white three-lens camera that he jokes “weighed as much as a Volkswagen.” Back then editing was done with “a razor blade, microscope, and scotch tape.”

Rainey used to hop on his bike after school and pedal to the local news station, where he operated a camera for the evening newscast. Since then, his interest in camera work has never wavered. But Rainey doesn’t consider himself a cameraman as much as he considers himself a journalist.

“I’m a journalist first, without a doubt,” he said.

In those early days there was still money in journalism. Jobs were available to anyone with the desire to tell stories to the public. Foreign bureaus were commonplace and getting hired by a news station out of high school was not unheard of.

Today, the landscape is vastly different, and as bad as reporters have it, it’s even worse for cameramen, according to Rainey. There is a trend in the market to either automate or hire freelance camerawork.

The problem with that, said Rainey, is that cameramen should be journalists in the truest fashion.

“Our role is not all that different from reporters,” he said. “The role of a cameraman is to find information, and to capture it.”

If a cameraman has a background in journalism, then they can offer a unique role to both the reporter and producer.

“The (reporter and producer) usually know the story backwards and forwards,” he said. “But the camera crew comes into the story cold without any background usually.”

This allows them to operate as the eyes and ears of the audience. In other words, they are seeing the story for the first time, just as the viewer will be. If the cameraman has a journalistic background they are able to ask questions that the reporter may have overlooked.

“If you are so familiar with the story, you never think to ask the obvious,” he said.

Rainey said that often he would ask a simple and innocuous question, only to have it end up as the cornerstone of the story. He credits his journalistic training in college with helping him to think inquisitively.

Additionally, Rainey says that camera work as it relates to news coverage can be even more difficult than the act of reporting.

“Reporters and producers have the luxury of rewrites and time,” he said. “Cameramen don’t. The decisions we make in real time are the only ones that matter for us.”

When cameramen with significant journalistic backgrounds are terminated, everyone in the newsroom suffers, said Rainey.

Rainey said that he believes the golden age of journalism ended right around the time Laurence Tisch bought CBS in the 1980s. Tisch starting selling off parts and closed down many CBS bureaus. Rainey said Tisch closed the Atlanta bureau because many, including himself, were close to earning retirement benefits. Since then, it has been downhill for journalists — especially cameramen.

“The volume of work is not nearly as great as it once was, and the compensation isn’t as great either,” he said.

Rainey laments the fact that his daughter pursued a career in magazine journalism, only to make the transition to communications and public relations after nearly a decade in the industry. She had dealt with staff cuts and layoffs before, but this time she was asked to be the one making the cuts. Fed up, she moved to a safer and better paying industry. Rainey said it’s the first time in her life that she has had a retirement plan.

“I don’t think journalists have the respect that they once did,” he said. “There is so much anger and animosity, and it’s easy to dump it all on people who are telling you stuff that you don’t want to hear.”

Rainey said that today journalists are expected to act as a one-man band due largely due to budget cuts in newsrooms.

“The bad thing about one-man bands is that you don’t buy albums from a one-man band because they sound awful,” he said.

If there is any hope for journalism, Rainey said to look no further than the White House.

“I think, maybe Donald Trump has been the best gift to journalism in a long time,” he said. “So much of what he has done has been so abnormal and crazy that it has inspired people to look more at newspapers and televisions to find the truth.”

Although Rainey has a bleak outlook when it comes to the future of journalism, his love and passion for the pursuit is a beacon of light that shines through without him realizing it. He said that those who “have to” pursue journalism, should.

“It’s almost like a calling,” he said. “I had to do it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”


Kevin Tibbles, A Journalist for the People

By Lia Davis

Kevin Tibbles believes that to tell a good story, besides reporting on the facts, you have to tell it in a language that people understand and need to make it interesting. For him, he believes that even “one little extra thing” could take a story from good to great.

NBC News’ Kevin Tibbles is a correspondent currently based in Chicago. He contributes regularly to “NBC News with Lester Holt,” “Today,” “MSNBC,” and “Meet the Press.”

Tibbles is from Canada and attended Ryerson University where he received his degree in Journalism. He knew he wanted to become a journalist after meeting a family friend  was who a newspaperman.

“Whenever we visited his house he had a bunch of newspaper front pages hanging on the wall in his den,” said Tibbles. “I was so fascinated that I used to study these things and think about how far away these places were.”

Besides thinking about all of the places he could travel to, he knew he wanted to meet different people.

“I wanted to see everything and meet people. I thought it was important to find out if people were like me, different than me. I thought it was important to find out whether people in different parts of the world had different aspirations.”

Before coming to Chicago, he was a foreign correspondent for NBC based in London. His work has provided him the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan, Rwanda, Iceland, Thailand, and Dubai among other places. It was in Afghanistan that he covered a young boy’s story that he said still affects him to this day. The boy was employed by a candy maker and had to walk five to six miles to work every day.  He lived in a mud hut with his family and was regularly abused because he was a member of a minority group. No one else in his family was able to work, so the responsibility of providing was on him.

“He was so determined to look after the people he cared about. He endured a tremendous amount of hardship just to help them out,” said Tibbles.

He believes that since he is not from America, he can see what other people do not see when it comes to his reporting. His background allows him to pick up on stories that other journalists may not.

Tibbles considers the best part of being a journalist is being able to meet people.

“I’ve been so fortunate in 40 years of doing this that I’ve never lost faith in other people despite of what they do to other people or what I’m told about them.”



Social media compels, now let’s listen

By: Darrah Perryman

Their narrative spread like wildfire – quickly claiming ownership of eight million eyes and ears. Two black men were arrested in a Starbucks store for not purchasing anything on Thursday, April 12th.

And the aftermath was nothing short of powerful.

Outraged patrons watched their arrests in awe, then anger, quickly pulling out their phones to document the day’s events. The footage soon demanded cell phone screens, televisions, newspapers and the mayor’s attention with a major public relations campaign now on the brinks.

Bystanders’ cries for answers from the police officers were heard on camera, “Why are you arresting them for something that we do, too?” one patron yelped. The harsh moments would soon threatened the reputation of a staple in the breakfast industry and raise more questions about race-relations in a polarized democratic society.

“There has to be more than the story,” some users gasped on Twitter minutes after the video made its rounds. One Twitter user wrote, “I’ve been going to afternoon meetings at Starbucks for years. Sometimes I order something and sometimes I don’t. There are plenty of people around me doing the same. But I’m white so I guess I get a pass.”

Social media has done what journalists have yearned to do for decades – engage their audience and shed light on moments that might typically go unnoticed.

Weeks removed from the haunting incident, Starbucks issued a statement, decrying the arrest and explaining the situation: The manager asked the two men to leave the restaurant if they weren’t going to purchase anything, and they refused, explaining that they were waiting for their friend to arrive. The manager then called 911 for assistance in removing the men from the vicinity. The city of Philadelphia has since reached a settlement with the two men, rewarding them each $1 and a promise to invest $200,000 in a youth entrepreneur program, one that the two men will help support.

Still, for many members of marginalized communities, moments like these are typical, though not recorded and shared on external platforms to effect change. But social media has given our audience the tools to inform the world of these realities, and it also makes journalists more valuable than ever.

Our users are opening the door to matters they deeply care about, but will we listen? Reporters now have a direct line of communication with their audience. Access to voices, sources, news, and issues that deeply stir readers are mere fingertips away.

Ignoring this tool or simply being intimidated by such advancements is disadvantageous for reporters. For, it’s only hand-in-hand with our readers and listeners that we can move forward to the future of journalism and reach promised new heights.

No more fake journalists.

By Jonathan Ballew

With Sean Hannity all over the news cycle for playing fast and loose with media ethics, I want to talk about media literacy — more specifically, its decline in America. When my grandparents heard I was going to be published for the first time they asked me, “What publication gave you a byline?” They may not have any background in journalism, but as consumers of news for over 80 years, they know more about journalism than a lot of my J-School classmates.  I’m not sure that most millennials even know what a byline is. The scary truth is that most average consumers of media cannot tell good journalism from what I like to call sham journalism. This lack of media literacy is dangerous, because we have the general public running around thinking people like Sean Hannity are journalists, when in reality, he admittedly denied the moniker.

Part of the problem is that we have pseudo-journalists masquerading as purveyors of truth. I won’t dive into the fake news issues we are facing because I don’t want to beat a dead horse (and fake news deserves its own individual post), so instead, I would like to address these new sub-forms of journalism, that I believe are dangerous. Hannity said himself that he is “an advocacy journalist or an opinion journalist.”

The word opinion and journalist should rarely stand together, and most respected newspapers make a clear distinction between their reporters and their editorial board. I have yet to find a reputable J- school that offers a degree in “opinion journalism.” If I were to have the opportunity to ask Hannity one question, I would ask him to define the term.

The journalists that I most respect do everything in their power to remove their own bias from their reporting. Obviously, no individual can ever fully separate their personal bias from their work, but the

nobility in journalism comes with the trying. The Hannity types not only don’t try to remove their bias, they hide it and slip it into their reporting like snakes, as was evidenced with Hannity’s “reporting” on Michael Cohen.

While advocacy journalists may mean well (excluding Sean Hannity), in my opinion they have done harm to the profession. I applaud and understand their efforts, and they are miles ahead of those who are intentionally peddling fake news. But calling yourself a journalist when one has a set agenda is a dangerous precedent.

My first journalism gig was an internship with The Chicago Justice Project (CJP). I hadn’t even taken introduction to journalism yet and I barely knew the difference between a byline and a headline. I wrote about stories that focused on police accountability in Chicago and covered police board meetings and events at City Hall. I learned a lot along the way and am grateful for the opportunity CJP gave me (I had an excellent boss who fights for an incredible cause). However, I quickly found that what was expected of me was to write stories that would look unfavorable to the Chicago Police Department and the city of Chicago.

I don’t think I’m taking a big leap when I say that the Chicago Police Department is pretty messed up — the Department of Justice definitely agrees with me — and I stand by the reporting I did with CJP. However, journalism should be about reporting the facts and allowing the public to draw their own conclusions. I know there are many advocacy journalists who stick to the facts, but there are many who report situations from one side of the aisle. Overall, when you are crusading for a cause you cannot be a journalist in the truest fashion. Am I saying there is no place for advocacy journalists? Absolutely not. But I do think that we need a new name for the profession (I’ll let you know when I coin one). Media literacy is at an all-time low in America and we have to find a way to right the ship. Calling social activists “advocacy journalists” only serves to muddy the water.

DePaul is guilty of adding confusion to the fracas surrounding real and pseudo-journalism. Just go check out DePaul Newsline. The page looks like a news site, with bylines of “reporters” for every story. But look closer and you will find that the site is run by public relations officials, and every story paints DePaul in a positive light. They even have a tab called “Newsroom.” Even DePaul’s top public relations official at DePaul has a fancy title that serves to distract people from the connotations surrounding the term public relations. Instead of a standard title for a public relations official, they have created the fancy (and innocuous) title of “Executive Director, News and Integrated Content.” Several times I have had students tell me they loved an article we did for The DePaulia. When I ask them which one, I then realize they are talking about an “article” they saw on Newsline. They can’t tell the difference!

The title of journalist needs to be taken seriously, as we do with doctors, lawyers and any other profession where integrity is vital. This post would be pointless unless I offered up a solution, and mine is simple. I believe, as I do with most complicated issues, that it starts with education from a young age. It is absurd that journalism classes are rarely offered in high school and with more and more high school papers being shut down, unfortunately the future is bleak. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is a glimmer of hope, and they have started a campaign asking college journalists and working professionals to volunteer their time and speak at elementary, middle and high schools about what it means to be a journalist and how to consume news. Perhaps if we can inspire the youth of tomorrow we can save our beloved profession from the Sean Hannity’s of the world. The program is called #Press4Education and I encourage you all to sign up!

Local TV news poised for stability

By Emmanuel Camarillo

So, you’re a young journalist and you want to be in the news business? Find a local television station that’s hiring.

At least that’s what a recent study by the Knight Foundation on the state of local television news seems to conclude. Unlike radio or newspaper outlets, local TV news appears to be holding fast, if not thriving. Which means my decision to focus on broadcast news is looking better and better.

According to the study, local TV news is profitable in part due to the steady influx of political money every two years. To the surprise of no one, advertising dollars still contribute big bucks to programming but the study notes that TV stations that run local news get a median of 55 percent of their ad revenue from that programming.

I was surprised to learn that TV news has been immune to the issues that plagued print bureaus not so long ago. In fact, the decline of newspaper subscriptions has been a blessing for TV news. The Knight Foundation finds that in the decade since the last recession many newspapers were forced to cut staff. In that time span newspapers laid off 46.1 percent of its employees while local TV news employment increased by 4.9 percent.

Another unexpected tidbit is how little impact the popularity of online news sites has had on TV news survival predictions. The Knight Foundation study says that only a handful of these websites are self-sustaining and are not likely making a return on investment, I.e., they aren’t threats at the moment.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the emergence of online-only news channels signaled the final hours for traditional local broadcast news. It seems that feeling is unfounded and TV news is not going gentle into that good night just yet.

Interestingly, despite all of the new ways Americans get their news, good old television is still the most popular way for people to learn what’s going on in their neck of the woods. The report notes that Nielsen’s ratings show local TV news reaches more people than network or cable news. According to that data, local TV news reaches 46 percent of adults while cable TV news reaches only 22 percent.

Not to hammer the point home too much but Pew data also states that local TV news is still where Americans most often get their news; 50 percent of the time, in fact.

That fancy new iPhone and Android with the unlimited data plan is helping the TV news business as well by cutting down costs previously associated with buying expensive cameras and satellite equipment. And to think all you use your phone for is playing Candy Crush and browsing Bumble.

All of this points to a stability for local news in the coming years. The Knight Foundation states that local TV will remain profitable for at least the next decade. A key element to this stability is the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which the study says “opened the floodgates” for political advertising. Local TV news revenues in that area are set to increase from $2.65 billion in 2016 to over $3 billion in 2020. Citizens United: Bad for politics, good for your local TV news station.

The entire report is available online here, and it includes more information on the current state of television news and what the industry might look like in the next decade.

I for one hope that local TV news does in fact remain stable for years to come, or, at least, until I graduate and find a job as a reporter at some hamlet in the US.