Talk shows are great, but grassroots reporting must be renewed
By: Charles Douglas
Iconic war reporter and social critic George Seldes noted that “journalism’s job is to tell the people what is really going on.”
If you’re like me, you don’t get that sense from the establishment media, which mostly produces programs geared towards an all-too-profitable sense of escapism from what is going on around us. Even the programs labeled as “news” are increasingly favoring schlock, sleaze, infotainment and the rote regurgitation of press releases – once upon a time, reporters outnumbered public relations agents, but the opposite is true today. Why watch an increasingly inferior production system as it continues to go downhill?
These aren’t just the opinions of a media critic like your author; the Pew Research Center has for years tracked a statistically verified decline in viewership of television news in America across all demographics during all times of day. Even in terms of local news (far more trusted as compared to the national networks), it’s now a minority who consider themselves regular watchers. Among those under 30, this number drops to 28%.
Our local area still has a somewhat robust local news landscape, but with trends like these, we cannot count on this to continue. Local news represents nearly half of an average commercial station’s revenue, according to a Hofstra University study; fewer viewers will reduce this revenue, which will reduce resources available to journalism, which will feed a downward spiral.
This gloomy picture need not spell out the inevitable fate of the free press in the Rogue Valley, an endeavor so essential to the functioning of democracy that it is the only industry specifically protected in the Bill of Rights. As a member of the RVTV Public Access Advisory Board just referred to during their meeting today, Thomas Jefferson said honest reporting better served the country than any form of government.
The tools are in place at RVTV for local producers to band together and (with a sufficient amount of teamwork and training) put out hyper-local, community based reports on the life and times of people in neighborhoods across Southern Oregon. They don’t need to be perfectly well-polished or have the slickest graphics, though this is something we can work on. They just need to be real and they just need to give voice to people we don’t usually hear from & communities which usually don’t get recognized. They need to reflect diverse viewpoints and most of all, they need to be honest.
You don’t have to be a grizzled old cynic like me to be a community-minded reporter. As longtime Washington, D.C. publisher Sam Smith reminds us, journalism is not a profession, it is a craft, and it is one accessible to and appropriate for we, the people.
My challenge to local producers is to build bridges with each other, with journalism students here at SOU and with the independent media institutions coming to life here in the Rogue Valley. You will have ample opportunities to meet them here at the DMC on April 17th, at the Project Censored keynote address with Mickey Huff on April 19th in the Meese Auditorium at SOU, and at our State of the Independent Media live television show on April 20th in the studio.
We are celebrating Independent Media Week like never before, because the challenges have never been greater, so let’s rise up and meet them!