Good Morning Truckee! Let’s talk journalism

Good Morning Truckee! Every table was filled, and nearly every place marked by hot coffee, as Truckee-Donner Chamber members gathered in the Tahoe-Truckee Airport Conference Room for the community breakfast forum. Each month a different subject is featured and this month’s topic was “The Changing Landscape of Media.”

Tanya Canino, reading the news, as always.

Tanya Canino, reading the news, as always.

As a longtime journalist in the area and the journalism instructor at Sierra Nevada College, I was invited to be the panel discussion moderator for the morning. On the panel were Michael Gelbman, publisher of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Mayumi Elegado, owner and publisher of Moonshine Ink, Katherine Hill, owner and publisher of The Weekly, JD Hoss, of KTKE 101.5 FM, Eric Brandt of Tahoe TV and Robert Grossman of Lake Tahoe TV News.

Chamber organizers asked me to talk about my 25-year career in the area and then give an overview of the changing media landscape, before asking thought-provoking questions of our panel.

I chose to mirror my career with the changes in journalism, since I started my career just a few years before full-time professional editorial staff at newspapers peaked at 56,900 in 1989 and I ended it in 2008, the year of the newspaper death watch as the Great Recession and the digital disruption of the Internet collided to kill journalism jobs and publications. Shortly after recovering from breast cancer treatment, I began teaching journalism here at the college in 2010.

I realized that I could not just teach WWWWW&H, the First Amendment, how to write an inverted pyramid and ethics. In addition, my students need to know how to use social media in reporting, shoot and edit a video on an iPhone to upload to a blog, sort through data and visualize it; optimize their website with SEO.  When I arrived at SNC, I had to make a choice – teach what I was familiar with, or jump on that digital rollercoaster and learn everything I knew they needed to know as quickly as I could.  So I did, and I’m still learning.

I have been instrumental in creating a new major, New Media Journalism, which responds to the fact that graduating college journalists need an entrepreneurial business background, digital arts expertise, along with how to report a story, how to tell it in multiple platforms from a tweet, to a written story, to a blog post, to a video to an audio podcast. They have to be multimedia journalists, able to work in many different communication fields.

Here’s three of the several questions that I asked the local journalists:

In a famous article written in 1960 called “Marketing Myopia” Theodore Levitt held up the railroads as a quintessential example of companies’ inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Had the bosses realized they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they would have moved into trucking and air transport. Likewise, had the newspapers realized that they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Internet.  TV and radio, too, have been impacted by the Internet, but more recently by mobile news consumption, as people can grab the weather on their iPhone and don’t need to tune into a TV weather report.

What types of marketing myopia did your business face as an information provider adapting to the new media landscape and then, how are you overcoming it? Basically, where did you fail and how have you rebounded?

 I would like to address two trends that the Pew Research Center identified in its State of the Media report for 2013. The first is news coverage.  We’ve already discussed how newsrooms have shrunk by 30 percent, but television news has shrunk as well. The Pew Center reports says that sports, weather and traffic account for 40% of television content on local TV news stations, while coverage of live events and live interviews have decreased. CNN, as a national cable channel, cut its story packages in half from 2007 to 2012.

Quoting a Pew article: “This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.

How has your news coverage been affected? What is the toll on local watchdog reporting? Is the Tahoe-Truckee area adequately covered?

Finally, I am leaving tonight on a red eye to New York City taking six journalism students to a college journalism conference where they will attend sessions with names such as “Tweet Talk: how your social media skills can get you a job,” “Think like a web producer,” “Interactive Graphics and You” or even this one: “Drones, wearable tech and who knows what else.” While traditional print jobs are scarce, job opportunities seem to be better than ever. Today, everyone can tell their own stories. Every company is a media company. Every organization is a media organization. Everyone has a web site, uses social media, and cares about mobile media. Someone is going to do those jobs. In just five years, the percentage of graduates of journalism and mass communication programs getting jobs writing, editing, designing or otherwise working on the World Wide Web went from roughly 20 percent of graduates to 60 percent.

Would you encourage a student today to go into journalism?

And all but one of the panelists said “yes.”

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