If you can only afford one news subscription, make it your local news outlet

BY ANALISA TROFIMUK

Children were dying every month in Minnesota daycares due to violations of basic state guidelines. If it wasn’t for local reporters of the Minneapolis Star Tribune who through their investigative reporting forced state regulators and politicians to pay attention, children attending daycares could still be at risk today.

Brad Schrade, Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howat earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for their in-depth coverage on the spike of child deaths in Minnesota daycare facilities.

Allison Petty, Lee Enterprises’ Midwest regional digital editor, summarized in a recent tweet why investing locally is the wisest option if readers can only afford one subscription.

“Your (money) is critical to its survival. You get access to national and state stories via wire services, regional sharing,” said Petty. “Your community is strengthened by solid local reporting.”

The power of local news goes far beyond individual beat coverage, though that is certainly where it starts. Reporters who regularly work a beat meet sources, uncover issues, and get the closest look at concerns that impact their communities.

Joyce Dehli, a longtime journalist and Pulitzer Prize board member since 2008, wrote that local news is so much more than basic day-to-day happenings.

“It requires attentive listening to diverse sources, dogged examination of data and other records, and close observation of government at work,” Delhi wrote in an Pulitzer.org article. “It takes time and skill and requires on-site support of editors and other news leaders who live in the community and care about it.”

But newspapers, radio and television news outlets were struggling to stay afloat before the pandemic. The outbreak of COVID-19 only made it worse. Hundreds of newsrooms were hit with layoffs and furloughs. And it was a slippery slope. At a time when news was in high demand, especially accurate and well fact-checked stories, newsrooms were rapidly losing employees.

Time Magazine reported earlier this year that among six chains that own hundreds of local papers, ad revenue dropped 42% during a quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year. Circulation dropped 8% according to a Pew Research report.

More than 90 local newsrooms have closed so far during the pandemic, according to the Poynter Institute.

What is the cost?

City council and school board meetings took place without proper media coverage, leaving the door open for taxpayer money to be used with little to no public input. Stories about neighbors helping one another were never told. In some towns, vaccine distribution information, COVID case numbers and critical health news continues to be relayed in an extremely limited capacity.

It is no secret that subscribing to multiple news outlets can be costly.

The special attention that local news reporters offer their respective coverage areas allows for a more informed, well-educated community.

-30-

Religion has influenced personal politics for many. So why isn’t it being covered?

By Richie Requena

Journalists are proud of their First Amendment right, which guarantees the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The First Amendment also covers the freedom of religion ensuring that people of faith can exercise their religion without fear of persecution. Religion is a very personal topic to those who practice it. So why isn’t it being covered as much as other topics?

As journalists, the most important thing to do is to get it right. And again, because it is a personal and intimate topic for believers, the consequences of getting it wrong could receive harsh backlash.

Telling a story by painting with the same brush can also be very dangerous. Many Americans can remember just how unfairly Muslims were treated in this country and abroad when it comes to topics of terrorism for the acts of 9/11 and other terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe.

Reporting on religion can be scarce, and does not need to be limited to scandals. Journalists need to be aware of the context and timing that show how faith believers are influenced by what they cover. Not all religious stories need to be serious news topics either.

Religion’s influence on politics has divided people based on what they believe in. Views on abortion, COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy, same-sex marriage, capital punishment— among other controversial political beliefs often can be traced back to a person’s religious background.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, younger generations around the world are becoming more and more secular; meaning they do not identify with any religion. Journalists should be able to ask why that is. Do younger generations not agree with the views and stances religious leaders have? Are institutions, like the Catholic church, simply out of touch with the times?

Because there are so many religions and ideologies in the world, it is challenging to even find out who we should ask these questions to. It is important for journalists and editors to be intentional with who we listen to and what stories we pursue. As calls for more diversity, equity and inclusion tactics for hiring have expanded in the country, it is just as important that we consider religion as a topic.

Just as we would not talk to one person of color for a story that touches on race, it is important we have a rich diversity of religious experts we can turn to. We know that not everyone thinks the same, making the intentional decision that shows the depth and context to religion can make a story about religion come to life and be more representative.

Just to show how different a religious group can be, white Catholics and Hispanic Catholics practice the same religion, but have very different political leanings. Hispanic Catholics tend to be more socially conservative than white Catholics, but when it comes to the voting booth Hispanic Catholics consistently vote for Democrats while white Catholics lean Republican.

Reporting on how times have changed for religion is also vital to show why they have changed. Take for example the topic of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court recognized those unions. It was a very dividing topic even for people in the same religion. Now a days there is a lot more acceptance of same-sex marriage compared to even a decade ago. The big question there to ask is how has religion changed since then?

We as journalists need to do a better job of reporting on religion. We have seen what dangers it can do when things are not  reported right. Following 9/11, Islamophobic attack skyrocketed because of the fear extremist had against Muslims. The perspective and beliefs of Muslims have been buried by Islamophobia. Bringing in more Muslim reporters and experts to get their perspectives can be the step to make them more familiar to people who have never seen Islam practiced.

And that is what reporting on religion can do. Religious reporters don’t have to report on sermons and scandals that catch the eye of an audience for a day or two. Sometimes the best stories can be the simple ones that capture life as it is, because those are the ones that show us that we are all human.

-30-

The paradox of a people-pleaser entering one of the most hated professions

by Sadie Fisher

A part of me has always wanted to be a journalist.

I was given the American Girl doll Kit Kittredge for Christmas when I was three. Kit grew up during the Great Depression, and even at the age of 10, she was reporting on the stories in her town and trying to get published in her local newspaper.

I think that gift sealed my fate.

However, there is a paradox that comes with my wanting to be a journalist: I am a chronic people-pleaser. The irony of being a people-pleaser entering one of the most hated professions in the world isn’t lost on me. The public’s opinion of journalists has only gotten worse over the last few years — and that opinion didn’t start highly either.

In the world of “fake news,” journalists are viewed as the enemy of the people. It is not uncommon for people to read or hear a news story with staunch evidence and decide that it is simply not true. This has only been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and conspiracies surrounding the virus, masks, and the vaccine.

It’s hard to see work you put 110% of your effort in to be picked apart because someone simply doesn’t agree with it. So how do I combat this? How do I take care of myself while entering a field where I am not well-liked by some?

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that it isn’t about me.Even though I put so much of myself into the stories I produce – it isn’t about me. It’s about producing a story that is ethical, factual, and fair.

At the end of the day, the reason I wanted to become a reporter isn’t to fulfill my ego or feel good about myself.

I’m going into journalism because I want the public to be informed and to tell stories that people should and need to hear.  I want to elevate the voices of those that may not always have a platform to share their stories.  I want to keep those in the public domain accountable for their actions and make sure everyone knows what is going on in their communities and the world.

And with this, I know that some people won’t like what I’ve reported on.

It can sting to not have people like you or the work you put so much time and effort into. But if my goal is to please everyone and make every single person happy with the stories I produce – I will be fighting a never-ending battle for the rest of my career.

This lesson is one I learned firsthand this summer. I interned at the TV news station in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin – the news station I grew up watching that helped fuel my love for news.  I was able to see firsthand just how hard it is in this industry to please people.  It didn’t matter if I was doing a story on the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine or a fun story about a local zoo welcoming a baby giraffe – a viewer would find something to complain about.  Some viewers would even call if they didn’t like our outfit or our hair.

I quickly learned to never read the Facebook comments on a story I reported.  Criticism – whether warranted or not – is just a part of being a journalist.  And while that may be a hard pill to swallow – it’s something that will kill me if I don’t swallow it.

The main goal I need to have is to produce truthful stories with ethics at the forefront.  I must strive for accuracy and objectivity – not my own sense of fulfillment.  However, I have to keep in mind that I can’t completely ignore my needs and happiness.

The recent conversations surrounding mental health, and how important it is as journalists to keep ours in mind, has only made me more aware of my people-pleasing tendencies.  I must listen to myself and recognize when it’s too much and need a break or someone to talk to.

While it’s important to exert full effort for the sake of objectivity – we as journalists can’t completely give ourselves to our jobs.  We can’t put ourselves and our effort into our work if there is nothing for us to give.  It is a balancing act that I am currently learning and will continue to learn for the rest of my career.

I will never please every person with my stories – and I can’t compromise my happiness to achieve it.  But for what it’s worth – I think three-year-old Sadie would be happy (and pleased) with where I am now.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newsrooms should reflect the communities journalists serve

By Maria Marta Guzman

At a young age, I never struggled to answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was always a ‘periodista’…a journalist.

My earliest memory of journalism was when I was 11 years old watching Univision’s 5:00 p.m. newscast alongside my mother coming home from a long day of work at a local factory.

I remember flipping to the Univision channel and watching Latino anchors like Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas delivering the latest stories of the Latino community.

These moments were the foundation of my passion and interest for journalism.

For me, the afternoon newscast was more than just watching the news. Rather it was feeling represented in the stories that were told by other Latino journalists that looked like me.

Through Ramos and Salinas, I saw 11-year-old immigrant Maria from Nicaragua be represented in the news.

Ten years later, as a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and president of DePaul’s NAHJ chapter, I’ve come to learn the value and importance of proper representation in the media — and not only for Latinos but for different ethnicities as well.

A 2020 research case from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) organization shows that Hispanic Latinos make up 10% of newsrooms, while Caucasians comprise 73.4%.

You might ask yourself why the Hispanic Latino representation in the media matters, and it matters because the Hispanic Latino population has developed to be the majority of the minority groups in the United States.

According to the 2020 U.S Census, the Hispanic Latino population was the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the country. The Hispanic Latino population is not only growing nationwide but also locally. The Chicago Tribune reported that the Hispanic Latino population in the city surpassed the Black population for the first time ever.

As journalists our duty is to report on the stories of our community and those living in it.

Therefore, if our communities are made of different voices coming from all nationalities and walks of life, should newsrooms not reflect that as well?

Yes, they should. Chicago is made up of Whites, Blacks or African Americans, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders and Hispanic Latinos.

As the population and demography of the U.S. changes, so will the stories and newsrooms need to be ready for that change.

This year alone, a wide range of Latino centered stories have made headlines.

From the mass migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border to legal challenges in DACA and anti-government protests in Cuba, newsrooms ought to be ready to accurately cover these stories by proper portrayal.

Journalists should be capable of covering any story that can arise despite one’s background differences. But the reality is that many journalists don’t know how to accurately and properly cover stories of different communities and backgrounds.

For example, a non-Hispanic Latino English speaking reporter might not cover communities of color like Little Village, Pilsen, Belmont Cragin or Humboldt Park as thoroughly as a Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter due to the language differences and cultural awareness.

Think about it this way, you are a news director at a local station sending a journalist out to cover the border crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

You have one non-Hispanic Latino English speaking reporter who knows the basic information occurring at the border crisis but does not speak the same language as the migrants at the border do— Spanish.

While, on the other hand you have a Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter who does speak the same language as the migrants and knows the in-depth story and challenges the migrants are facing from experience.

Who would you send? Most likely you would send the Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter with an in-depth knowledge of immigration.

It’s not to say that the English-speaking reporter is incapable of covering the border crisis, they probably are.

But it’s the Hispanic Latino Spanish speaking reporter who has the advantage of directly speaking to the migrants with no translators needed. It’s the Spanish speaking reporter who has the benefit of getting interviews with sources that other news stations are unable to get.

This is one of the many occurrences and examples why Hispanic Latino representation in newsrooms is needed and matters.

Journalism is a public service. Appropriate Hispanic Latino representation is needed in our newsroom not only because there is a lack of it, but because better story coverage is needed.

-30-

There Is No Room for History to Repeat Itself in Journalism

by Ally Daskalopoulos

I was 6 years old when terrorists attacked the twin towers on 9/11/2001, and I remember that day vividly. I was sitting in my kindergarten classroom watching the look on my teacher’s face. She was crying. All the students were soon brought together in a big room, used only for important events or meetings. It was cold, and voices always echoed off the walls. It was called the multi-purpose room. I remember thinking something bad was going to happen. Little did I know, it already had.

At 6, I knew smoke was bad. I knew fire was bad. I knew buildings falling were dangerous. Except, I couldn’t put the pieces together. It was like a puzzle. That was before I knew where New York or Afghanistan is located. It was before I knew the circumstances around those events, and it was well before I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

This year marked 20 years after 9/11, and the puzzle remains with lots of unanswered questions about that day including, who all the victims of 9/11 really were. The world is a different place, and now I am a journalist and I understand more about what happened on that day. So many catastrophes and disasters have happened in the past two decades, but for whatever reason, 9/11 remains the most common comparison for journalists who should be more cautious in language used to relate one tragedy and its casualties to another.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve heard comparisons to 9/11 everywhere. Originally, it was a disturbance. “The greatest disruption to American life since 9/11,” as Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes said.  As the pandemic progressed, many lost their lives to the virus. In turn, the comparison spread. A 9/11 every two days has described the rising number of COVID-19 casualties. This parallel is not fair, yet it keeps happening over, and over, and over again.

The time has come for journalists stop this comparison and be more cautious with language used.

The number of people who were killed on 9/11 is nowhere near the ongoing number of people who lost their lives to COVID-19. This reality is inevitable when a virus like COVID-19 spreads rampantly. However, the number of casualties has almost become a unit of measure deemed acceptable by the media.

Specific historical tragedies with mass casualties like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes, or refugee crises should not be compared as casually as they are. Not only are they sensitive subjects, but they are a part of history that should be left to rest.

It is often said that history sometimes repeats itself. We have seen that with the current pandemic and past pandemics. While comparing pandemics seems like a more logical comparison, we can’t say for certain that they are the same. Often viewed as a rather creative comparison, the 9/11 parallel is usually seen in opinion pieces. Yet, the determination of pursuing the parallel lives on. When historical comparisons evaluating our present circumstances are made, a lack of context can creep in, which can become dangerous for future generations.

On 9/11, I came home from school, and I watched the adults around me transfixed to the TV, not even blinking. My mother had a look of horror on her face that I don’t think I’ve seen since that day. I was scared and I remember always being scared as a child. I was afraid of doing something wrong, afraid of people, of strangers, afraid of anything bad happening. Today, I’m still afraid of those things, but I’m afraid of so much more. I’m afraid that the memory of 9/11 will be forever altered, I fear the way we measure what qualifies as a public disturbance is going to accidentally trivialize valid trauma. Yet, I’m more afraid of what the public is given to contextualize.

As journalists, it’s our responsibility to minimize harm. This includes being respectful to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and being considerate to those mourning the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. The world will never forget the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply extracting the numbers to make sense of a phenomenon that we can’t yet understand is not acceptable. As journalists, we can do better. There’s no reason why we cannot expand our minds further than just focusing on the past. It’s journalism’s responsibility to slow down and be more mindful with our history and word choices. By paying attention to the details, perhaps the fallen can rest peacefully, without comparison.

 

-30-

The Future of Funding for the U.S. Free Press

By Elly Boes

This year, veteran journalists from my hometown announced Nebraska’s first statewide independent, non-profit news organization, the Flatwater Free Press. Like any good reporter, I immediately texted my mum.

“One of the founders looked familiar, Kent Warneke who ran the Norfolk Daily News,” I wrote, adding, “made me think of grandpa.”

Every Sunday, my mum and I would visit her dad to have tea and read the latest edition of the Norfolk Daily News, a small newspaper he borrowed from our public library each week for over 30 years.

“Oh my gosh that is wonderful Elly!! He ran a great paper,” my mum replied.

It was the first good news I’d seen about the news industry in months.

Since the pandemic began, it’s estimated that thousands of newsroom employees were furloughed, laid-off or received pay cuts, particularly in print media.

In digital newsrooms, however, employment rates rose 144 percent between 2008 and 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) saw audience engagement and revenue increase with 43 percent more web traffic directed to non-profit news sites in 2020 compared to previous studies.

As non-profit models see increased success, national policymakers are beginning to catch up, begging the question—what funding best serves the future of the free press in the United States?

One option currently on the table is federal government intervention.

First introduced in 2020, “The Local Journalism Sustainability Act” garnered bipartisan support in recent months, offering tax credits for local news’ subscribers and advertisers as well as compensation for journalists.

While financial assistance would be available to both for-profit and non-profit organizations, critics of the bill argue it won’t address the inherent inequities in local journalism, and rightly so.

Currently lacking in the bill is any discussion around failed advertising models, which often result in major newspaper buyouts by private equity firms like Alden Global Capital, which now owns The Chicago Tribune among others.

Such changes have left non-profits with largely freelance staff. These employees may be excluded from the bill due to a requirement that compensation can only be paid to a local journalist who works at least 100 hours over a three-month period.

Additionally, subscription and funded efforts by Congress may leave minority-owned newsrooms with unequal financial support. A study by SHE Media found less than 15 percentof under-represented publishers saw increased ad-revenue support despite corporate promises to equalize spending since 2020.

But it isn’t just newsrooms that suffer without consistent funding amid a crisis. When the last recession hit in 2008, both my parents and grandparents cancelled our newspaper subscriptions because they were too expensive.

Like other Americans, we turned on broadcast news instead, leaving many of our local newspapers in distress or under new ownership.

Yet non-profit news organizations—both digital and print—are more than surviving this pandemic.

A 2017 study by the Media Insight Project found that just 54 percent of its 2,199 participants paid for access to local news.

Yet the latest data from INN observed that two-thirds of all newsrooms surveyed over the last year received increased individual donations.

Still, major contributions—of $5,000 or more—make up the majority of funding for non-profit models, both in individual and foundational giving.

Given this—and the havoc wreaked on journalism by COVID-19—it’s unclear how sustainable any local news organization will be without any assistance from state or federal grants.

Despite ethical concerns, government assistance for the free press has been employedmany times in the past, including the beginning of the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program—or PPP, an example of crisis funding—provided newsrooms with wage relief but disqualified many local papers because they are owned by larger companies.

It’s important to note here that most non-profit news organizations—like Nebraska’s Flatwater Free Press—establish themselves in local markets because other legacy papers don’t have the resources to cover specific investigative or community needs.

Like my grandpa, this means audiences seeking free news alternatives during a crisis most often find them at public institutions, such as libraries, or online.

To Matt Hansen, founding editor of the Flatwater Free Press, non-profit models with funding from a variety of sources are key to keeping the free press not only accessible but alive and well.

“The early indications of success in fundraising have really blown me away,” Hansen said in an interview with Nebraska Public Media. “It becomes very clear very quickly, when you got any talk about this project, or projects like this, that people understand the need for this in a way that surprises even me.”

 

-30-

 

 

 

How an Eight-year-old Discovered a Problem in Newsrooms Before Even Getting to One

By: Izabella Grimaldo

One of the first times I walked into a newsroom was at CBS Chicago at eight-years-old. I stepped out of my westside bubble and stumbled into Chicago’s downtown- a place where suits and heels were the norm compared to the working boots back home.

I started feeling the pressure of being a first-generation student younger than eight years old, but with the pressure came the good grades and with the good grades came the free field trips. Honor roll students from Schubert Elementary school got the chance to go to CBS Chicago with one parent, have lunch with journalists and walk-through CBS Chicago’s offices.

The nerves were getting to me-with a million butterflies in my stomach- at the mention of my father’s name and mine to walk in. “Adrian and Izabella Grimaldo? You can go in now!” My heart skipped a beat. We walked over to talk to the anchors and reporters, but I remember turning away and seeing the newsroom in full action and falling in love for the first time at eight-years-old.

My relationship with news was strictly in Spanish, with Univision always on at home.  After seeing the demand, the pressure, the high-paced environment, I knew I wanted to be here, but most importantly needed to be here because no one else like me was. The room was filled with well-educated journalists, who spoke so eloquently. The only ones close to the resemblance of my dad and I were the maintenance staff who happily greeted us with “Hola, muy Buenos Dias!”- that felt like home.

I was just a child when I learned “Educated” and “Educado” are a direct translation of each other but have a very different meaning in the English and Spanish languages.  I was raised to always be Educada, well-mannered and polite. Though as I grew up, “educated” was having the highest degree you could meet and flaunt how you worked to get there.

The maintenance staff were Educados; they were kind and worked so hard surrounded by a group of people who often ignored them. I found myself torn between being next to the people who gave me a home away from home and being with those who looked at me funny for smiling at them and speaking Spanish that day, torn between being Educated and Educada.

When I decided on starting a career in journalism, I had one thing pushing me to stay-regardless of the many experiences telling me to leave: Be the person you wanted to see when you were eight years old in that newsroom. Be the one to demand representation and understanding of the diverse communities in the city.

Over 20 percent of the population in the U.S is Hispanic, with only 7.8 percent of Hispanics in newsrooms. The fact is local reporting from a diverse team is vital to journalism. It is not, however, a battle between Latino and U.S. journalism; it’s just journalism, serving the public no matter who that is.

The transitions in these communities from first-generation to second and third are happening fast and it is up to newsrooms to adapt to these changes. This starts by creating opportunities for Latinos to enter newsrooms and be there for their communities. To advocate for their stories and build a bridge of trust and communications with the community and the media.

I knew that I was an idealist- eager to tackle an issue that was far bigger than me- but now at 22 I can happily say I still hold the heart and hope an eight-year-old Latina from the West Side held then. Still demanding, still building, and still hoping for a space my colleagues and I can grow. Space where I could be both educated and educada, just as my community taught me.

-30-

 

 

Implicit Bias of Latino youth in the media

By Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales

In recent weeks, the Chicago Police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo has ignited demonstrations and a city-wide outcry for police accountability. Mainstream news reports as well as hyper-local media have followed the story closely. Simultaneously, opinion pieces have also sprouted causing controversy and push-back.

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, was one of the first to write his opinions about the incident, “it’s not too early to stop romanticizing and infantilizing 13-year-olds,” Zorn writes in a column published before police body cam footage was released.

Zorn received heat from Chicago journalists and activists via Twitter. Many questioned if he would have written the opinion piece the same way had Toledo been White. It was only when Zorn was under fire that he deleted his tweet history including tweets about his column and opinion.

In a video produced by the New York Times, implicit bias is explored with an analogy. The video titled Peanut Butter, Jelly and Racism breaks it down, “we’ve all grown up in a culture with media images, news images, conversations we’ve heard at home, our education. Think about a fog we’ve been breathing our whole life, we never even realized it, what we were taking in. That fog causes associations that lead to biases.”

For Toledo, it wasn’t long for the reports to come out of his association with gangs in Little Village and of course, questions about why a preteen was out at two in the morning accompanied by a 21-year-old and a firearm. While as journalists, it’s important to report details, how we frame those details makes a difference.

One Sun Times’ headline reads, “Gang members ‘instructed’ to shoot at police vehicles after Adam Toledo shooting, cops warned.”

If you’re reading that headline, now you’re making associations between gang activity and Toledo. Why is a Latino gang threatening to shoot at police vehicles? Is Toledo a Latin King? These questions and now connections between gang activity and a 13-year-old are made.

Little Village is a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in the west side of Chicago. It’s the neighborhood where soon-to-be 15-year-old girls go to buy their quinceanera dress, where you can find some of the best taco joints and the only place where you can find obscure Mexican cheeses in the city. But if you type in Little Village into a Google search engine, the top stories are shootings, death and violence.

The reality is that Little Village is an underprivileged neighborhood with a median household income of $33,989. For the week of March 22 to March 28 of 2021, the Chicago Police Department District 10 located in the Little Village neighborhood reports five shooting incidents and 40 so far this year.

If the only time a neighborhood makes news headlines is for its crime rate, what does that do to our implicit bias? Columnists who have preconceived notions about brown youth and areas in the city like Little Village begin to not see our youth as youth.

In a 2019 study conducted by Pew Research, it revealed Hispanic Americans were 26 percent more likely than Black and White adults to think their personal interests were misunderstood by the news media. Additionally, predominantly Latino neighborhoods felt less of a connection to local journalists and news organizations.

Implicit bias is inevitable but if we begin to recognize and understand why we have certain associations with races, cultures, economic status etc. then as journalists we can begin to report from different lenses.

In an op-ed by Mateo Zapata published also by the Chicago Tribune, Zapata writes, “we need solutions that begin with telling our own stories so that we can take back control of our narratives and defend the humanity of Adam and all the other kids like him.”

As members of the world of journalism, demanding accountability from peers and news organizations is vital to stop narratives that perpetrate implicit bias and continue a false narrative of Latino youth.

 

-30-

Mental health is getting more attention in the news industry – but are self-care breaks feasible when news orgs are cutting staff left and right?

By Marcus Robertson

As humanity races toward a future with increasingly dire possibilities, journalists have a duty to ensure the public understands every facet of the most pressing issues we face.

To do otherwise is to violate the Society of Professional Journalists’ core principle, “Minimize Harm.” After all, today’s media landscape is fraught with lies, like the ongoing “stolen election” claim initiated by then-Pres. Donald Trump. If we don’t fight it, we are allowing minds to be poisoned.

But how do we find a balance when covering the relentless onslaught of doom, gloom, and tragedy? That kind of constant exposure can wreak havoc on anyone’s psychological wellbeing – but covering it is our responsibility. Are we meant to also minimize harm to ourselves?

“The data tells us that journalists are exposed to traumatic events at a higher rate than many soldiers,” clinical psychologist and trauma specialist Dr. Kevin Becker told the Poynter Institute. “As such, they are at increased risk for the mental health impacts related to the losses and tragedies associated with Covid-19.”

How often must we brush aside feelings of burnout and push on in the name of the greater good?

Within the last year, I’ve started to take my own mental health seriously. I sought out a therapist through the Jesse Brown V.A. Health Center, where I receive largely free healthcare as a veteran. I’ve diligently taken my new anti-depression medication every day, and I’ve kept all my therapy appointments.

It’s helped, but it hasn’t immunized me against the torrent of trauma I’m tasked to keep up with. Maybe reporters should periodically take a break. At the same time, that idea sounds so foreign and incongruent with success in journalism.

If all of my peers are working their asses off constantly, why do I deserve a break?

There’s a view among some in the industry of journalism as a kind of intellectual holy war against lies and injustice. If that’s the model we’re called to emulate, then perhaps we’re meant to embody what Iraq War veteran Kevin Bakker said to mewhen describing his love for those he fought for.

“If I have to choose between my life and yours, fuck you. Go live,” Bakker said. “I’m out.”

Under this view, burnout from constant trauma exposure is just a tragic fact of life on the information battlefield. I might take a bullet or two, but if I can still stand, I had better press on and keep fighting the good fight.

But perhaps it’s better to instead treat mental health and self-care like oxygen masks in an airplane – you can do more to help others if you first take the time to help yourself. I can serve the public much longer if I take the time to care for myself and come back fresh, right? After I graduate and land that job I’ve dreamt of, will I even be allowed to take breaks like that? Should I be allowed to?

I suspect no one can give a definite answer, because as the cliché goes, these are unprecedented times. There’s no roadmap for where we’re going.

Should I put my oxygen mask on before I help everyone else? I wish I could answer that.

All I know is that it’s getting hard to breathe.

 

 

The Need for a Town Square

By Rebecca Meluch

Growing up I thought I needed to be a doctor. When I first came to DePaul, I enrolled as a biology major, pre-medicine student. I idly walked to science classes, studied for exams, and went to lab. But after an entire year, I realized writing lab reports was the only thing I enjoyed in my major. I had a knack for explaining what I observed and documenting it for others to understand. I realized I could maybe make a career out of that. The summer before my sophomore year I changed my major to journalism.

It was quite a large leap going from pre-med to journalism, but when I wrote my first story that was published, I knew that I made the right choice.

I only wish that I knew sooner.

Students enrolled in DePaul’s journalism program, many –– not all –– came to college knowing they wanted to major in journalism. They either wrote for their high schools’ publications, took journalism classes as juniors and seniors, or grew up reading their local newspapers. They had knowledge and background in the field, and maybe some local journalists they already respected. I did not.

I grew up in a small city called Olmsted Falls, on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio. When I was in high school and prepared to digest the news, we didn’t have any dependable local journalism outlets. My school didn’t offer any journalism classes, and our school paper was wildly ignored. It’s only now as a college senior that I learned my high school had a paper in the first place.

Cleveland was once prized with The Plain Dealer –– it’s version of The Chicago Tribune. I remember as a child seeing my mom and dad hand pages back and forth to each other, my mom mostly for the coupons, my dad for the sports. I remember passing The Plain Dealer’sgigantic office building on Tiedeman Road whenever my family hopped on the turnpike to take a trip downtown.

Looking from it on the outside, I would have never been able to see how as every year passed, fewer and fewer bodies, journalists and editors took up that gigantic space.

In the early 2000’s The Plain Dealer employed over 350 writers and editors. By 2020, the 179-year-old newspaper employed zero.

The rise of the internet, advertising costs, union busting, lack of readership and distrust in the news –– all ultimately led to The Plain Dealer’s decline.

As The Plain Dealer first began to tear away in ashes, Cleveland.com rose. It’s a mediocre at best, online only, lesser quality, non-unionized news site that barely covers Cleveland’s small towns and lacks the coverage on beats The Dealer once had.

My hometown of Olmsted Falls lost the coverage The Dealer once gave, we lost what my parents used to call our very own town square. People lost interest in reading the news, and I had no physical example of what journalism was –– only that I stopped seeing a Plain Dealer at the end of my driveway on Sunday mornings.

What happened to The Plain Dealer happened all over the country. Local news outlets were being bought out and gutted by corporate hedge funds, papers had to lay off their staff, drop hundreds of beats and abandon coverage in areas that relied on it.

Margaret Sullivan is the media columnist for The Washington Post. But before she was at The Post, she was the top editor at The Buffalo News for 13 years –– another local journalism outlet that had to make massive layoffs and saw its readership and coverage decline.

In her book, “Ghosting the News” Sullivan wrote about the local news crisis –– and the dissipation of local outlets.

She discovered that since 2004, more than 2,000 American newspapers have closed their doors. From 2004-2015 the U.S. newspaper industry lost over 1,800 print outlets as a result of closures and mergers.

In the news industry, there are the haves and have nots. There are nationally read papers like The Washington Post and The New York Times which substantially have been able to maintain readership and print a physical paper.

And then there are the local outlets –– the outlets that are equipped with people who want to cover small towns and everyday people but aren’t given the money and resources to –– who are left with the decision to merge, adapt, or die.

Local news is vital for small communities to remain connected –– not only with what is happening in their city, but who is living there.

Fans from all over the state of Ohio decreased at my school’s football games –– because there was no one there to cover our team or our top marching band program on a regular basis. People were shocked to hear we had a student who received a near full ride to Harvard, because there wasn’t a reporter who covered local high school scholarship recipients anymore.

Residents played guessing games with one another because they didn’t know what brand-new business was being built in front of the police station.

Without a local news outlet, people became uninformed and distant with one another.

Devoid of a town square that keeps one in touch with the world and its possibilities, people might go on unaware of what is even out there for them to do or see. The loss of local journalism led people astray, people like me who spent an entire year studying to be a doctor, when I could have known earlier, I wanted to be a writer.

-30-