From Caring To Clicks

Journalism is not my major and I know very little about it, but we have had the opportunity to hear from many people that have had the opportunity to work in journalism and work with journalists. It’s obvious that journalism is changing and changing fast. It seems that everywhere we go from Stateline to The Hill people would agree. Sean Spicer even has his own critiques of the press, imagine that. I feel that since this trip began I have gained a new knowledge and admiration for journalism, however I’m far from a professional. I have noticed a few things when it comes to how people are discussing the press, and where they think it is, and should be headed.

This notice of the changing press, for me, really came to fruition when we had the opportunity to listen to Sean Spicer speak. He had a lot of interesting things to say about his life and his story of how he became the man behind the podium. However, at one point he was telling a story of one of, if not the first, days in the White House for the Trump administration. I had forgot about the story that he was telling. It was the story about how a reporter had sent out a headline about how Trump had removed the statue of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office. It was made clear to me by listening to Sean Spicer that this in fact was not true. The picture the coincided with the story/headline that was released that day was taken from an angel where you were not able to see the statue, but maybe should have, at least that’s how I heard the story. So someone either moved the statue that day, or it was just not visible in the shot. Either way this story blew up. Stories like this about Trump have been blowing up since before he was elected.


When talking to Bob Cusack, Editor-in-Chief for The Hill,  he made a comment that I think stuck with everyone after we left that site visit. He stated that Trump is good for the press. This can be taken a few different ways. One, Trump gets news outlets attention, or two, the press always has something to cover. Much of the headlines that news outlets cover nowadays probably shouldn’t be considered newsworthy. Yet, when we turn on our screens or open the paper, there it is. This mainly happens because people care about exciting, controversial tweets. Or they care about Trump “removing” a statue of MLK. In return, for caring about these types of headlines, news outlets get click on their stories, and Trump gets them views and he gets them clicks. This isn’t the way that journalism is meant to work.

We had two different site visits last week that kind of touched on this idea of the changing press. One was with an alum from PEW Stateline, and the other was at Politico. The alum from Stateline, Matt Vas, talked to us about what it is that he does at that outlet, how he got there, and other jobs he had. Matt also talked about the change being seen in the press. One thing he touched on was the idea of getting clicks on your stories that you post. At certain outlets you are required to meet a click quota on your stories. He told us about this because he had experienced this out in the press world. However, he works at a place now that doesn’t really obsess over getting clicks on stories. Stateline, the place he works now that does journalism in a way that Jane Norman, Drake alum at Politico, would call the old way of doing journalism.

She described this, the old way, as a process that was much more time consuming than what is being seen in journalism today. This process, in her eyes, included much more face to face interactions and conversations. She also talked about how the old way of doing journalism was precise and it would take more than 15 minutes just to be the first outlet with that headline. This is how Matt often does his reporting, the old way, at least that’s what I gathered. It seems as if Matt does really substantive and in depth journalism. He talked about his process and how he travels all over the country to work on stories that fall into his field of expertise. Most of all he talked about how Stateline doesn’t care about clicks on stories.  

Journalism is changing, that’s pretty clear. The old way of doing journalism added and does add so much more value to a piece of work. It adds a richness to stories and it shows that there really is other things going on other than the click bated headlines. Twitter and Facebook help spread those headlines, another change from the old way, and Trump may be good for the media industry, but there are still people that care about the press. At least they care enough to spend time on stories. In the future I think that as a society we’ll recognized the importance of doing journalism the old way. We are going to have to.


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