What do journalists want? Report offers some answers

Phil Castle

What do journalists want? Besides fewer hours and fatter paychecks that is. It’s a question with implications that extend far beyond my selfish desires. Not only for media, but also those who depend on media. I’d contend that’s just about everyone.

Cision, a public relations and earned media software company, recently released its annual state of the media report, the results of which are based on the responses of more than 3,000 journalists who were asked about industry trends, the challenges they face and skills they expect will be needed to address those challenges.

As I repeat so redundantly to anyone who’ll read, I’ve got a lot of blessings to count. To still work in print journalism with real print and for a newspaper with the advertising support that makes it possible for me to do so. That’s not to mention opportunities to talk to business owners and managers and tell their remarkable success stories.

More generally, though, the state of the media isn’t nearly as good in the face of a triple threat of shrinking revenues and layoffs, attacks on the credibility of the Fourth Estate and the potential effects of artificial intelligence on operations.

Among those responding to Cision, 27 percent of journalists ranked maintaining credibility as a trusted news source as their biggest challenge, 20 percent cited lack of staffing and resources and another 20 percent decried declining ad and circulation revenues.

According to the results of separate polling by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, half of Americans believe national news organizations intentionally mislead them. As a newspaper journalist, I’d love to blame the problem on television, in particular channels that include the name news but then turn that into an oxymoron. Except, of course, newspapers are at fault, too. It’s both a responsibility and privilege to report the news, one that can’t be abused.

I’d proclaim it’s more important than ever to report just the facts as they are known without embellishment or agenda. But that’s always been important.
So is the pursuit of balance and fairness. My high school principal used to have a sign in his office that stated there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth. In telling both sides of a story, journalists get closer to telling the third side.

Journalists face yet another challenge in reporting on increasingly complex issues and situations in comprehensible ways that provide context. In doing so, they must acknowledge situations more often involve gradations of gray than distinct delineations of black and white and trust their readers and viewers to understand.

What do journalists want? Most of them, I suspect, the opportunity to do their jobs unfettered by diminishing resources and attacks on their credibility. But trust is earned. And that’s another job just as serious and important.

Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at phil@thebusinesstimes.com or 424-5133.