The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists partnered with University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication to host a panel Wednesday to discuss how news is made in today’s constantly plugged-in, digital climate.
The panel included three local journalists from some of the Madison area’s leading news media platforms. The Capital Times news editor Jason Joyce said the way news comes together is a collaborative and organic process.
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While each of the panelists said they get their ideas for stories from combing through various e-mail subscriptions and press releases, listening to scanners and reaching out to members of the community, Kathryn Larson, a reporter for Spectrum News, said she has noticed a definitive shift in the way journalists have gathered news in the last few years.
“What I’m doing more and more is I’m finding things on Facebook and social media,” Larson said. “I am getting probably 70 percent of content through those channels.”
Joyce said today’s newspaper business is fractured between print and online. Just over five years ago, The Capital Times decided to prioritize digital news over print. The paper still publishes a print newspaper every week, however, because there is a portion of their audience who only get their news from print, he said.
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The advertisement revenue model for daily newspapers is collapsing alongside the collapse of retail, Joyce said. The closure of numerous businesses on State Street and across Madison in the last several years has resulted in fewer and fewer businesses placing ads in newspapers.
Due to this disruption, Joyce said The Capital Times and others have had to think up innovative ways to make money. This was the motivation behind The Capital Times annual Idea Fest, the paper’s other live events and the creation of their first podcast.
With the rise of social media and popularization of the term “fake news,” trust in news organizations and journalists has decreased. According to a study by the Knight Foundation in 2018, 69 percent of U.S. adults said their trust in the news media has decreased in the past decade.
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The panelists encouraged people to get their news locally.
Larson said local journalists do not have the agendas of national media companies and Molly Stentz, news director for WORT radio station, said local journalists are more accessible and willing to talk to people because of their connection to the community.
Efforts to improve media literacy — like Wednesday’s panel — are beneficial to the public in a society where news is becoming increasingly harder to filter and navigate, Joyce said.
“We seem to be in the midst of a positive trend in this country where people are starting to understand that they should vote and learn what people have to say about things because it’s important — and when we fall asleep at the switch, bad things happen,” Joyce said. “Having a critical eye, looking at things skeptically and having meaningful conversations with people close to you in your community is just good for democracy.”