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Reporting on prisons in the United States can be challenging and often frustrating for even the most respected publications and seasoned journalists. It can't be approached like any other beat. The good news is that organizations are penetrating the confusing, dense veil of prison policies and prison life. And, they’re supporting prisoners who dare to write as incarcerated journalists and sharing tips with editors and journalists on the outside who want to report on prisons.
Like it or not, unexpected situations are going to keep happening. Whether it’s a hurricane, a snowstorm, a tornado, a power outage or a new pandemic, the “unexpected” seems to be coming at an increasing rate. So, with that cheery thought buzzing around in your brain, what can we do about the big, scary unknown? As often happens in these columns, Doug Phares makes one simple suggestion: Be prepared.
The term “objectivity” is itself subjective. If you were to poll the public about their desire and demand for “objective” journalism, many might opine that reporters should stick to the “who, what, when, where and why” model — sans the “why” part. But the “why” is, after all, the essential context of the story, and without it, the public is less informed and not as inclined to read the bare-bones carcass of the story that remains. Of course, contemporary conversations about objectivity and fairness in reporting are much more nuanced and complex.
In the early days of the internet, a few early adopters were starting careers in the news industry and seeing opportunities in digital that their bosses did not fully understand. Today, digital pioneers have become the bosses. Those ahead of the digital movement — like Conan Gallaty, Lisa DeSisto, Grant Moise and Robert Granfeldt — saw their careers take shape in ways they never expected.
Louie Mullen owns over 30 weekly newspapers in small towns across seven states. “Every newspaper is run as an individual. It is a representation of that community. It’s more of an old-school style of running newspapers,” said Mullen, who is buying community newspapers across the country. And, his ownership style is hands-off.
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Gaps in news coverage are spreading across the country. But even with this challenge, newsrooms are finding resources and innovative ways to save or even revive their storytelling capabilities. One example is partnerships between universities and media companies. This trend is especially prevalent in local newspapers, which are facing increasing newsroom layoffs as they struggle to survive.
Ryan Sorrell and his team at The Kansas City Defender rely on two methods to reach young people. First, they know that each social media platform has a different ethos, so they personalize content for each brand. Second, they have a broad content mix, blending hard news and culture stories with headlines such as “10 Best Black-Owned Restaurants.”
A report published by the Center for Media Engagement in the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin shows how journalists can connect with stigmatized communities by using person-centered language. Caroline Murray, a senior research associate at the school and one of the authors, says this research is important because it demonstrates how journalists can better connect with the communities they cover.
Over the decades since, there have been dozens of cases of news people who turned to a life of politics. Richard Warner Carlson — known as Dick and father to one Tucker Carlson — famously quit TV news to pursue his political aspirations. Malcolm Stevenson (Steve) Forbes Jr. straddled the world of news and politics, including two bids for the Republican presidential nomination. Sarah Palin remarkably went from TV sports reporter to Alaska’s governor to vice presidential candidate. This year, she campaigned for Alaska’s House seat but lost to her Democrat opponent in the special election. The list goes on and on.
Jennifer Bertetto inherited a deadline the day she became the leader of Trib Total Media. She had two years to save the company. Bertetto was named Editor & Publisher’s 2022 Publisher of the Year at the #NewsMedia Business Summit in Harrisburg on Oct. 13, in part, for rescuing the southwestern Pennsylvania newspaper company from its swift plunge toward bankruptcy. In the process, she retained her commitment to her employees, community and journalism.