Five people who have a lot to do with the news you read, hear and see on a daily basis in San Diego got up early to talk about the role of news media organizations as advocates. What they had to say may surprise you… especially if you’re still living in the era of Walter Cronkite.
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association hosted the panel in the first of its Breakfast Club Forums for 2012. Participants included Mike McKinnon, station manager of KUSI TV; J.W. August, managing editor for KGTV; Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego; Jeff Light, editor in chief, U-T San Diego; and Deanna Mackey, station manager, KPBS FM/TV. The assignment moderating this forum was mine.
The five members of the panel had very different views of their organizations’ roles and responsibilities, and varying approaches to advocacy when it came to political candidates and initiatives, civic issues, rooting out wrongdoing and whether certain stories even deserve coverage. How much does the number of readers, listeners or viewers determine what kind of news you get? A whole lot more than you think. For example, KGTV’s August says the station doesn’t cover medical marijuana stories anymore because its audience tunes out when they run.
Should media organizations endorse candidates and initiatives? Light and McKinnon said yes; Lewis said yes although Voice doesn’t; August and Mackey said no. So what passes for objectivity today? The panel members couldn’t agree on a single definition, and McKinnon said if there were 200 people in the room, there would be 200 different definitions.
NBC News reporter Chuck Todd has said that “transparency is the new objectivity.” This is assuming objectivity every really existed in news coverage. In my view, it’s a bit like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. So far they’re mirages but I’m not entirely ready to dismiss them as fiction.
Panel members also discussed the public’s waning trust in the news media; the increased speed of the news cycle thanks to online sources like Twitter and the results of this extreme deadline pressure on traditional media; coverage of “good news” vs. “bad news” and diversity in the newsroom
The entire forum along with some of the Twitter commentary, a slide show and even a music video are all now on the San Diego County Taxpayers Association Storify feed. You may find the remarks surprising, infuriating, dismaying, or perhaps refreshingly candid, but illuminating to be sure.
Rostrafarians, do media endorsements still make a big difference to you as a candidate or as the supporter of a particular ballot measure? Do you run into trouble with media bias? Do you work around the news media by producing your own source of information online?
FULL DISCLOSURE: The San Diego County Taxpayers Association is a client of my public relations firm, Falcon Valley Group. But I would still give this forum good reviews even if I wasn’t involved.