News Media Today, Challenges? Consequences

Shared by Laurel Jeris

Leelanau County Democratic Party sponsored Program – held at the Leelanau County Government Center on Thursday, March 23 at 7:00 pm

Big Turnout for “News Media Today, Challenges? Consequences?”

Many, many thanks to our program panelists: Bob H. Giles, retired editor and publisher of the Detroit News and editorial board member of the Traverse City Record Eagle, Peter Payette, Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio, and Jacob Wheeler, founding editor of the Glen Arbor Sun, and communications manager for the Traverse city based Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Dave Barrons, retired broadcast meteorologist and LCDP member, served as our program moderator, which greatly added to the overall success of this program.

Our turnout on Thursday March 23 far surpassed our expectations, especially when we learned about our competition with the Michigan/Oregon basketball game. We have no doubt that our panel members and moderator drew the crowd of about 80.

Program committee members have pooled comments from audience members as they departed. Perhaps the most frequent remarks connected in some way to how much they learned – especially about the challenges. Other remarks focused on the extent to which the program gave folks frameworks for thinking about the issues. One remark in particular struck us – “I came tonight because I have been so confused . . . now I have some tools for getting through the chaos.”

We have also looked through all the question cards and noted that the majority of them honed in on how to integrate what they glean from various sources of social media with more traditional news sources. Bob Giles’ explanation of the difference between a platform and a publisher was very enlightening. Similarly, Jacob Wheeler’s proposition of thinking about the current news media environment as a “Golden Age” opportunity shifted people’s thinking a bit. Peter Payette’s comments helped us all understand the role of public radio, particularly how it has changed in recent years.

Among many points, panelists talked about the effects of social media on journalists in terms of posting to numerous platforms taking time from actual reporting; the pressing need for more investigative journalism; and that – bottom-line – ratings are important as those are what attract advertising, the key financial driver of the new business

We have no doubt that our audience members left with a more nuanced understanding of the news business, in all its forms. And, Bob Giles’ quote from Justice Damon Keith that “Democracy fails behind closed doors,” strengthens our resolve to be active consumers, participants as letter writers especially, and critics when needed.

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