WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Fake News, Corporate Ownership, and Shrinking Newsrooms

Nov 28, 2017

The Shop Talk panelists talk about some of the issues that confronted journalists during the past year and their concerns for the profession as the new year approaches.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said journalism was once considered a prestigious job and journalists were trusted.  She said that’s eroded in recent years and the trend continued this year, especially with cries of “fake news” from those who don’t like what’s reported about them. 

Crighton is also concerned about the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media, which would put Sinclair stations in 75% of the nation’s TV markets.  Crighton said surveys show local stations are generally trusted by the viewers but that could change under Sinclair ownership because the corporation requires its local stations to run content that’s heavily slanted.

Panelist Will Buss is concerned about the still dwindling size of newspaper staffs. He worked part-time this summer at the same paper he worked for nearly two decades ago.  He was stunned by how much it has changed and he was surprised by how heavily the paper leaned on his assistance even though he was just a part-time reporter.

Buss said it’s impossible to cover everything happening – even in a small town – with just two or three reporters and an overall staff that’s not much larger.

He also said there is too much punditry and spin in the media, and there are too many people who only want to hear information that agrees with their opinions.

Panelist Rich Egger said TV stations and newspapers seem to be following the lead of commercial radio stations, which have already seen their news staffs shrink or disappear.  He said big corporations have bought commercial stations that now churn out generic content to air across the country.

The panelists say the big challenge is finding ways to make journalism profitable without cutting staff sizes.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.