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Journalism Juggling, v 2.0

As I said in my earlier live post, the Akron Press Club gathered at lunchtime today ostensibly to figure out whether the political news coverage in Akron is/was fair, but the panel actually ended up talking about broader media issues.   (Insert appropriate gnashing of teeth here.) “WTF! Er, I mean WTH! for those of you under the age of 18…How the heck do we compete in an instantaneous news cycle? Do we still get paid for this?

I know, many of you think this is just whining  from an industry that — until recently — had a license to print money. I’m in the other camp. I’m a freelance (read laid off) journalist who loves the gig, loves the dinosaur (print) AND the new media and is struggling to find her place in a shifting world order.

So today you could find me  blogging about the discussion (below) as it happened while I ran audio through the main board and fiddled with my tiny video camera, from which I’ll post footage of the panel. (Something had to give, so the video will wait till I can make the drive home to edit. I could have done that too had I remembered a needed cable; but hey, it’s my first time doing this all at once.)

This basic juggling was the main topic, and the subtext of the event. The struggle is pretty universal.

Beacon Journal Managing Editor Doug Oplinger put it this way: Readership is going up, the BJ has 85 -95 percent penetration in its market, a responsibility they meet with a drastically reduced staff. “We’re trying to be more speedy. So are the other guys. (They’re) not held to the same standards…You think General Motors has problems.”

So, here’s my questions to you-you out there reading this.  Will you pay for this? How much will you pay for this?

And here’s my question for the suits: if local news entities realize we need to change the way we do things, why were their reporters not sitting there trying to get you audio, video and web coverage as it happens. Can we even do all these things at once? What gets lost in the process when we try (besides my job security and the rules of basic grammar)?

Mark Williamson, a former TV newsman and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic’s often embattled Communications Director isn’t happy with what another panelist called the “microwave mentality” of younger news consumers who are driving change in the market.

“You lose what’s good…you lose several eyes,” Williams Williamson said referring to the old structure of newspaper copy editors, desk editors and editors editors who often had the back of people like me back when.

“Now we have this huge outpouring of letters and news,” Williamson said. “We don’t check the sources. We don’t know what’s credible anymore.”

Williamson was lamenting the use of blogs and the internet during a dustup — some say promoted by a union dispute between the city and Akron firefighters in which a firefighter followed Mayor Plusquellic after a party, reporting to police that the mayor was driving under the influence.

What’s worth saying here is that the mayors foes weren’t the only ones taking advantage of bandwidth to get out their side of the story. The city quickly made the mayor’s calls to police public. The newspapers and news radio followed the story in a way they might not have in the past when the keys to the media were kept by the guys in suits.

Now it’s more of an open house where you — the news consumers and news makers — are mucking around in this sausage making process.

We’re all afraid you’ll be shocked to know how little we know at first — and even more afraid that you won’t care if it’s right. We were told you want to want the facts first — even if they’re not exactly facts…yet and that you’re happy to hang in there and read the updates as we learn more and more.

Just the same, I’ll be home in 10 minutes scanning my tape to make sure my quotes are accurate — old habits die hard.

-KH

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Categories: Akron blog, Journalism
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