Journalists, faculty provide community crash course in newsmaking
“How do you monitor the newsroom so as not to let your political opinions come through?”
“What constitutes a story?”
“Are television reporters considered journalists?”
These are some of the questions asked Saturday at Making the News: A Community Conversation, an event hosted by assistant professor Jason Peifer that brought community members, journalists and media experts together to foster an understanding of the journalism process.
Journalists talk about their different opinions and beliefs, and challenge each other, to keep political opinions from compromising coverage, the panelists answered. A story provides information the public can benefit from. And television reporters are absolutely journalists.
The full-day event was funded by a $25,000 Public Humanities Project grant from IU’s Arts and Humanities Council. Through pre- and post-testing, Peifer is researching the effectiveness of such events.
This was the second Making the News event; the first was held last year in Bedford.
Topics discussed included news judgment, evaluating information sources, non-traditional business models, reporting on controversies and investigative journalism.
Attendee Anne Bright, a retired high school journalism teacher, is a dedicated advocate of local media.
“I support any effort to keep the public educated,” Bright said. “Local press is so important, particularly for oversight of local government.”
Media School professor of practice Joe Coleman moderated the opening panel, “Deciding What’s News,” featuring Media School professor of practice Tom French, Herald-Times executive editor Rich Jackson, Bloom magazine associate editor Rodney Margison and Indiana Public Media news bureau chief Sara Wittmeyer.
At the beginning of the session, attendees wrote down their answers to three questions posed by Coleman: What does news media cover too much of? What does news media not cover enough of? How do you choose your news sources?
“As reporters, we are always asking ourselves, ‘What do people need to know to go on with their lives?’” Jackson said.
Wittmeyer said Indiana Public Media — the converged newsroom of WTIU and WFIU — surveys viewers and listeners, and uses that data to inform news judgment. Results consistently show that consumers want breaking news.
Monroe County Public Library community engagement librarian M. Wilder led a session called, “Know your news: Tips for evaluating information sources.” She gave tips on identifying fake news by considering an article’s relevance, date of publication, verifiability, objectivity and scope. She said a factual online article has, at minimum, a news source, an author, a date and a reliable URL.
“It’s important to realize if what you’re reading is news or someone’s opinion,” Wilder said. “If you’re looking for news and you’re getting an opinion, that’s not news. That’s an editorial.”
Fake news was a topic on many attendees’ minds. Bright said she’s skeptical of news she finds on social media.
“Research shows that if we see or hear something, it becomes a part of our thinking,” Bright said. “So I think the public needs to be more educated on how to discern facts from falseness.”
Attendee Dan Wiseman noted how easy it is for a person to stay inside his own little world when it comes to seeking out news sources.
“It takes mental discipline to read things that don’t align with your opinion,” Wiseman said. “We have our groups, and they sort of reinforce our bias.”
Wiseman said he and his wife Sharon rigorously read the morning newspaper.
Hearing about media ethics during the first panel discussion perked Wiseman up and immediately grabbed his attention.
“It was nice hearing the different points of view about how to sort out your own personal bias and staffing and what’s showing up in the newspapers,” Wiseman said. “It’s a kind of public accountability.”
It’s an accountability that Dan Wiseman takes personal pride in.
“Probably in another time, I would have been a librarian or a journalist.”