Editors and reporters discuss the future of the news industry on Radioactivity

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Radioactivity with Rob Lorei

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Radioactivity: Interviews & Live Call-In

This program was videotaped and put on our WMNF News Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/WMNFNews/

Intro:

Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I’m Rob Lorei. Last week we had a conversation with the executive editor at the Tampa Bay Times about the future of newspaper journalism. Today we’ll continue the conversation about the future of news with three former newspaper reporters. Diane Egner is a former editorial writer for the Tampa Tribune, she now runs a successful local news web site 83 Degrees; Tom Scherberger worked for both the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times; and Eric Deggans was once the media critic and on the editorial board at the St. Petersburg Times which changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times. He is now the TV critic for National Public Radio.

“Since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have closed around the country, according to a new report from PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for writers and literary freedom. That’s an estimated loss of about 20% of U.S. papers.

The report, titled “Losing the News,” paints a grim picture of communities where citizens are less likely to vote and less politically informed as papers are forced to close, or squeezed for profits by the hedge funds or media conglomerates that own them.”

Source: https://sfpublicpress.org/news/2019-11/as-newspapers-decline-some-pursue-nonprofit-model

KEY CONCLUSIONS

  • As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.
  • With the shift to digital, the business model for for-profit local journalism has collapsed, as circulation patterns have been upended and tech giants, notably the digital duopoly of Google and Facebook, have siphoned the majority of advertising revenue for content paid for and produced by news outlets.
  • Local newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations are being bought and consolidated by hedge funds and media conglomerates and often subjected to relentless cost cutting—leading to coverage that is more national, less diverse, and, in some cases, more politically polarized.
  • Newspapers have been hit the hardest, losing over $35 billion in ad revenue and 47 percent of newsroom staff over the past 15 years. Over 1,800 newspapers have closed, leaving more than three million people with no newspaper at all, and more than at least a thousand have become “ghost newspapers,” with little original reporting.
  • Because newspapers still provide the majority of original local reporting in communities, their evisceration robs the American public of trusted sources of critical information about health, education, elections, and other pressing local issues.
  • Many of the communities traditionally underserved by legacy local media—communities of color, low-income communities, and communities in rural areas—are those most affected by its decline. Finding meaningful, scalable solutions to the local news crisis presents an opportunity to revamp the industry to better represent, reflect, and serve all Americans.
  • Across the country, existing and emerging outlets are building out new revenue streams, experimenting with digital-first and nonprofit models, and collaborating rather than competing to better serve communities’ pressing information needs. But in the face of market failure, adaptation and innovation alone cannot address the crisis at the needed scale.
  • Philanthropic funding must expand dramatically to make a dent at the local level. Only a small fraction of philanthropic funding for journalism supports local news, and that funding is concentrated on the coasts and a handful of other states and often bypasses smaller and midsize outlets, as well as ethnic- or minority-led ones.
  • Legislators and regulators must ensure that technology companies fairly compensate local outlets for the journalism they produce, which including levying an ad revenue tax on platforms like Facebook and Google to fund local watchdog reporting.
  • The Federal Communications Commission must roll back recent decisions that enable media consolidation and cost-cutting and clarify and enforce the requirement that media broadcasters produce programming that serves the public interest.
  • Given the scope and scale of the problem, a solution is unlikely without dramatically expanding public funding for local journalism, through either reform or expansion of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or the creation of a new national endowment for journalism. PEN America is calling for a new congressional commission—a Commission on Public Support for Local News—to assess the viability of these options and recommend a path forward.

Source: https://pen.org/local-news/

Let’s listen to the last two minutes of my interview with Mark Katches the new executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times about the current state of newspapers.

Tape

Source: https://www.wmnf.org/executive-editor-at-tampa-bay-times-discusses-decline-of-newsroom-employment/mark-katches/

Diane, Tom, Eric—

Let me get your reaction to what Mark Katches told us last week?

Let’s talk a little about what used to happen in a healthy newsroom at a newspaper. 15 or 20 years ago. Where did story ideas come from?

The complaint we hear from conservatives is that newsrooms and editorial boards were a hotbed of liberalism and socialism. And that was at odds with where the American public is.

Digital replace print?

Can you make money in digital/

What’s being left behind? What’s not being covered?

People become less engaged—voting declines…

Bond ratings get worse for cities without a newspaper

Mistakes made at the Times?

Where are all the local people who were laid off or urged to retire from the Tampa Bay times; the Tampa Tribune; The Lakeland Ledger; Sarasota Herald Tribune; Bradenton Herald; The Clearwater Sun; The St. Pete Evening Independent