WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Fewer Journalists Left to Check Facts

Feb 14, 2017

Many newsroom staffs have been cut in the past 15 or 20 years.  That makes it more difficult for the remaining reporters to do their job, which includes fact-checking politicians.

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton said the issue extends beyond the size of news staffs. She said many of the people who’ve left are veteran journalists who have institutional memory and who know more tricks of the trade than younger journalists.

Crighton said Americans should demand that newspapers and broadcasters hire more journalists.  She said the public’s best interest would be served by having more reporters keeping an eye on things.  And she said people should not cheer when the president or other politicians put down journalists.

Panelist Will Buss said the staff size gradually diminished over the 16 years he worked at a St Louis area newspaper. Bureaus were closed and veteran reporters left.  He said the paper started hiring younger journalists; he said in the past reporters paid their dues in smaller markets before coming to that paper.

Buss said Americans should recognize that journalists serve as their advocates.  And he thinks Americans should put more time and thought into choosing their news sources.  He said educated news consumers are needed now more than ever.

Panelist Rich Egger said part of the problem is that fewer media outlets are owned locally anymore. The out-of-market owners don’t have an investment in the local community – their goal is to find “efficiencies” to fatten the bottom line.  And they certainly don’t want pesky reporters asking questions about their business practices. 

Egger said he becomes suspicious when people in power criticize journalists. It makes him wonder what they’re trying to hide.

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