In the modern era of misinformation, journalism may be more important than ever.
On Tuesday evening, four area journalists representing a variety of mediums came together to discuss the state of journalism in the world today.
Held at Monroe County Community College, the event was sponsored by the Agora, the college’s student newspaper.
The panel topic was inspired by this year’s One Book, One Community read “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles, which tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kidd, a former printer who, since the end of the Civil War, has been wandering from town to town in Texas reading stories he’s collected from various newspapers.
Throughout the evening, two print and two radio journalists discussed a variety of topics such as social media, sensationalized stories, and “fake news.”
“The term fake news is non-sensical,” said Michigan Radio’s program director Zoe Clark. “If it’s fake, it’s not news.”
Current managing editor of the Toledo Blade, Dave Murray, agreed but said it is important to also look through the lens of a reader.
“Even though we don’t like to think there’s something called fake news, a lot of our readers do,” Murray said.
To combat the problem, Murray writes a column called “Inside the News” which he says explains to people why journalists do what they do.
Another problem facing journalists, yellow journalism, is straight from the pages of this year’s OBOC read.
Evening editor and special projects manager at MLive and The Ann Arbor News, Khalil AlHajal said a few years ago, the desperate reach for readership ushered in a new type of sensationalized journalism – click-bait.
“You won't believe what happens next!” Clark said, referring to the headlines used by click-bait websites to draw readers in.
AlHajal said, though sensationalized websites are still a problem, he sees the pendulum swinging in the other direction.
“But now we're starting to see things come back around, in part because it’s just ridiculous and doesn’t have a lot of value,” he said. “But also, because the websites that did that discovered there wasn’t a lot of money in doing it that way either.”
Despite the problems, Murray said it’s an exciting time to be a part of journalism
“We are currently living in the golden age of newspaper publishing,” he said.
Murray spoke of the advent of online storytelling and how media is adjusting itself.
Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta agreed.
“People starting out in this will look back at this as the good old days,” Pluta said. “Our industry is collapsing and reinventing itself at a rate that is just mind-boggling.”
The transition from a world of print to online media has many questioning what even counts as a journalist nowadays.
“Anyone who is purveying information – that includes opinion journalists – who is devoted to accuracy,” Pluta said.
Clark agreed with her “It’s Just Politics” co-host, adding a good editor is also important.
“Every now and then a piece doesn’t get as good an edit as it needs,” she said. “But I really really really believe in a good editor.”