Local journalists visited the college on Tuesday for the college’s “People in the Media” panel to discuss the issues currently surrounding the field and give advice to those who plan on going into it.
Dave Helling, editorial writer and columnist for the Kansas City Star, has been working in different areas of the field since 1977 and fears there is a possibility that speed and brevity are becoming more important than quality and accuracy.
“[Those in charge tell us] ‘as soon as you get what you get, put it together and put it up,’” Helling said.
Helling believes that if quality is lost to speed, journalism’s credibility will be lost.
“The only thing we have to sell [our] credibility is the belief that what we do has a sense of seriousness and professionalism,” Helling said.
The panel also described how reporters can no longer expect the audience to go looking for news, but the reporter must now get the news to their audience.
“In the old days, you simply wrote a story and assumed people would read it,” Helling said. “It’s not enough to simply cover the news and write it. You must have a deep understanding of how to find an audience.”
Amy Anderson, reporter and weekend anchor at KCTV 5, mentioned the necessity of social media.
“We are Tweeting and Facebooking,” Anderson said, “now that’s part of our job. It’s just the new reality.”
While reporters used to have a lot more time to get stories together, the current time restraints were mentioned by the panel. Now, it’s about one day for one or even multiple stories.
“I didn’t know how fast the information was getting out,” Student Jason Thomson said. “It gets out in a day.”
In discussing the strengths and weaknesses of different types of media, Jay Senter, publisher and editor of the Shawnee Mission Post, described the differences between TV news and an online newspaper.
“[On TV, there are] constraints on how long the stories have to be,” Senter said. “Some of the restraints don’t apply to a web only newspaper. It’s the cheapest way, but it’s also the worst way to make money.”
The panel made clear how much has been lost over the last 20 years in the fact that no one spends 45 minutes with a newspaper in the morning anymore and the public has stopped looking for news. While it is important to have journalist to inform an engaged, voting public, Helling believes there is also responsibility on the part of the audience.
“The news consumer will have to become a much better judge,” Helling said. “Fake news doesn’t work because it’s fake news, it’s because people will believe it.”
The session was concluded with advice and encouragement from the panel to those going into journalism.
“It’s always something different,” Anderson said. “It’s always something fun. Try the different areas. Try different internships.”
CJ Janovy, arts reporter for KCUR, gave the advice she always gives to those who ask.
“Learn to write really well,” Janovy said. “Learn the rules. Learn the grammar.”
Helling expounded on the point, saying that time must be spent reading and learning from other news articles.
“The best way to be a great writer is to read all the time,” Helling said.