Newsroom Culture Wars

Four Things You Need To Know About Culture Wars In Today’s Newsroom

Which headline would you be more likely to click on: “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling’s New Baby” or “What’s New with the Crisis in Syria”?

We all know what we should click on. We know which story we should be informed about and want to read. But we don’t always do what we should, do we?

Herein lies the dilemma living within today’s newsrooms. As today’s media consumer is often also the producer of media, journalists are struggling between creating content they know will be read and sharing stories they know must be told. Like many of today’s workforces, newsrooms are no different – they too are experiencing a clash between the old and the new and a struggle to find compromise.

On September 17, Fahlgren Mortine sponsored a PRSA Cleveland luncheon on the topic, Business & the Media – “Who cares if it’s true – Inside the culture wars in today’s news business,” featuring Marc Fisher, senior editor of The Washington Post. He shared his story and perspective of how modern-day newsrooms are reconsidering their values in the quest for speed, accuracy and readership. And in the essence of keeping with a trend from new media, here is a list of our top takeaways:

Don’t give up on local media.
A large portion of Fisher’s speech focused on the battle between the speed of digital media and the desire for accurate information in storytelling. With newsrooms diminishing around the nation, especially in mid-to-large cities, Fisher said he’s seen a number of local papers who are staying alive today, due to their limited focus on producing digital content, thereby, leaving the printed newspaper as the primary resource for local news.

We know more than ever about what consumers want to read.
The digitizing of today’s media isn’t all bad – today’s analytics allow online newsrooms to know more information about their readers than ever before. Which topics are most popular, which types of headlines get the most clicks, where the average reader stops reading (down to the very sentence), which stories get the most comments, etc. This means that today’s journalists can use this knowledge to their advantage and create compelling content that they know will be read and shared. Is it an exact science? No. Fisher said, “There are still stories that we think will explode and should explode, but they just died.” But we are more informed than ever.

The old and the new can work together to learn from one another.
Traditional journalists are finding some of the tricks and tools of new media to be advantageous. For example, catchy headlines, lists, social media and other tactics used by newer media like Buzzfeed can be used by traditional journalists to engage readers in their stories. A long-form story on the Middle East can be turned into a list (10 Things That Happened in the Middle East Last Week You May Have Missed), and still provide important, factual and educational information to today’s readers.

“What we’re seeing now in journalism is a growing desire to seek the truth.”
Whether it’s a viral video, or a story about the economy, we, as consumers of the media want to know the truth. Were the facts verified? Was the video you just watched a hoax? Today’s newsrooms are struggling to understand what is more important – credibility or speed – and if, and how, you can have both.  Fisher said, “Credibility is as essential as speed. Getting it right has a higher value.” We couldn’t agree more.

The online conversation during the event was engaging and we’d love to keep it going. Let us know what you think. Share your thoughts with us on the culture wars in today’s newsroom – or answer these questions – in the comments below:

  • Where do you turn to first for news – social media, radio, local newspaper, national publications?
  • Have you noticed traditional media using tips and tools from new media?
  • Which is more important to you when receiving the news – speed or accuracy? Do you think both can be achieved without compromising the one or the other?


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