Opinion: Local News Coverage Needs “Competitive Collegiality”

Opinion: Local News Coverage Needs “Competitive Collegiality”

I recently participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the The Village Square titled, A Local Press: Healthy local journalism and our deepening national divide.

I joined the former publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat Skip Foster, Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas, and former Miami Herald reporter Bob Sanchez.

The discussion was moderated by Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jennifer Portman and revolved around two related topics. During the first part of the program, the panel of Mr. Foster and Ms. Klas put into real terms the financial challenges faced by the legacy media and how it was impacting journalism.

As someone who enjoys a print newspaper, it was difficult to listen to these veterans of the industry discussed the demise of a craft they had devoted their professional lives to making better.

The Village Square discusses the local press with Skip Foster, Mary Ellen Klas, Steve Stewart, and Bob Sanchez.

These two veterans made it clear that journalism is changing and the changes present new challenges that no one is sure how to address.

The second part of the discussion focused on the future of local media and a sustainable business model. Ms. Klas, who has spent time researching and writing about the current challenges in media, mentioned the rise of non-profits, but was not optimistic that this is a workable or sustainable solution.

As the Tallahassee Reports Editor and someone familiar with the local media landscape, I see an opportunity amid the media disruption. An opportunity to reshape local journalism and provide the accountability reporting that is essential to foster a responsive local government.

In my view, we need “competitive collegiality” among local media outlets.

Hear me out.

Ms. Klas, during the discussion, recalled at the state level years ago when newspapers had the resources to hold elected officials accountable by not letting a story die. If one paper broke a story, another paper would jump in and build upon the original research. Elected leaders, at the time, knew the resources were there to keep digging, so behavior changed.

Klas says this is no longer the case. Now state leaders know that if an investigative report breaks the odds are it will simply disappear from the news cycle in a matter of days. This is because the state-wide media does not have the resources to build upon or follow-up with an “old story.” Politicians make the decision to just wait it out, no other action required.

Now jump to the local scene.

It used to be in cities and towns there was one main legacy paper that drove the agenda and the investigations. Given enough resources and enough reporters this arrangement met most local news needs. However, now with obvious cuts in resources in local newsrooms something must change.

The change is that the local media outlets, which include print, radio, and television must forge a relationship driven by “competitive collegiality.”

This concept basically says that outlets should compete to break a story, but when the initial story is written two things must happen. First, given the magnitude of the story, other local media outlets should cover the report and give credit to the journalist and the media outlet. This gives credibility to the original report and gets the attention of local officials.

And second, again where warranted, other media outlets should devote some resources to following up on the original report and provide new information.

This approach will keep important stories alive and in the long run will let elected leaders now that they can’t rely on the news cycle to avoid questions or addressing issues.

The question is how do you get people in competition to work together. That topic is for another day.

8 Responses to "Opinion: Local News Coverage Needs “Competitive Collegiality”"

  1. Avatar
    truthhurts   March 30, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    The problem is people in this country are now so divided that they do not want to hear or read news as it used to be. They read and watch either left of right wing pundits that are so bias it no longer resembles reporting. Mary Ellen Klas is as guilty as any of the newspaper reporters. Her bias is clear every time you read one of her articles. I used to read the Washington Post every day until a Post article stated that the USS Stark sailors who died were not heroes. And that Regan was using there deaths for political purposes. This was shortly after my enlistment was over having served on a FFG that was identical to the Stark. Slanted news in every form is nothing new. It has been going on for over 30 years. It is just getting worse every day. and that is true for both the left and the right.

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  2. Avatar
    TG Brown   March 2, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    Real [television] journalism died with Cronkite. Even though I’m sure our personal views were miles apart, you couldn’t tell that from his broadcasts. Nowadays, everyone is a pundit. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the audience and that you have a lot more than two or three channels to choose from so they have to catch your attention somehow. However, most news these days it’s hard to differ from an old Jerry Springer episode. TMZ “gotcha news” has become the norm. Instead of “that’s the way it is” we now have “that’s just how we want you to view it.”

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  3. Avatar
    Anon   February 25, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Steve, every news outlet that allows comments on its site- something legacy media cannot do- will thrive, because We the People want more details and a voice- one of the reasons I think this site surpasses its competitors. And what the hell is up with all the dead bodies (FOUR) found in cars and in the woods in the past month in Tallahassee? No details. Also dead body found at Walmart in Forsyth (I-75) in same time period. No details from local news, only “no foul play”

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  4. Avatar
    Hope   February 24, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Other news outlets and the Chamber of Commerce is aligned with the perpetrators which makes it very difficult to get the real truth out. It is bad… it is very bad and they have not even begun to touch on it.

    To begin this process of cleaning up the filth is to do away with the usual suspects TV program, ban Yordon from writing columns in the Tallahassee Democrat, and shut down the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce junkets that are really PR events for politicians paid for by taxpayers.

    Begin here and the fresh air will blow out the stench of the first level of corruption.

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  5. Avatar
    Rosemary N. Palmer   February 24, 2020 at 11:29 am

    I think a partial solution is to robustly assist the college and high school newsrooms by offering internships and support to those in them to consider community wide news. There is no reason that students cannot write important articles about issues that find their way onto community digital news platforms. If there were a solid community outlet for it, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are many citizens willing to commit some of their time to research and report stories that would help us all.

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  6. Avatar
    Anon   February 24, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Steve, love the forum here. Moving forward, journalism must have an anonymous comment section. I often learn more details about a story from the comments. Crowdsourcing the news works because in the end, anyone from the Governor to little peons like myself can provide information here. Once here, it can be verified by others or tossed. And its all done for free, because some people just love the truth.
    Addressing disinfo and misinfo is another topic, and as crowdsourcing the news becomes more prevalent, so do the (paid) disinfo agents. Twitter a great example.

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  7. Avatar
    TONY   February 24, 2020 at 7:17 am

    REAL Journalism is dying fast. It USED to be “Get the News Out and get it RIGHT”. NOW, it’s just “Lets be the first one to Report what happens but spin it to what we want it to be”. If they don’t like what they are reporting on, they change it and inject THEIR Opinions into the article. News Papers MSNBC, CNN and the MSM are nothing more than the Fake Gossip Magazines you see at the Check Out Counter. Example Story: “Cadillac traveling East on Mahan Dr. Collides with Pick Up that ran the Red Light at Buck Lake Rd.”, now, if Trump was driving the Cadillac, the Story would read: Trump races thru Intersecting colliding with Pick Up Truck injuring two people in the Truck”.

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  8. Avatar
    News Maven   February 24, 2020 at 3:21 am

    The Fake Newsocrat has become what is now known as a “ghost nwwspaper.” Soon, it will be printing fewer copies than TR – it’s already under 15,000 daily.
    Meanwhile:
    Gannett-owned Palm Beach Post, Daily News newsrooms vote to unionize:
    http://newsguild.org/mediaguild3/14726-2/
    “The guild would join five other publications in Florida that have unionized since 2016, following successful efforts at The Ledger in Lakeland, the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville and, most recently, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, and would become the fourth Gannett-owned publication to unionize since October 2019.”
    And JP is no longer a scribbler for the Fake Newsocrat. She got bumped up to an editor job with the Death Star, but remains here:
    https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2019/08/17/jennifer-portman-named-enterprise-editor-usa-today/1970738001/

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