A panel including three individuals came together to discuss metro news in Chicago with nonprofit communicators, volunteers and staff in and around Chicago during a major community conference held on June 8th and 9th. The individuals from Chicago news organizations provided an example of the reality that the news business has been drastically changing.
Cate Cahan from Chicago Public Radio WBEZ, Fernando Diaz from Hoy Chicago, Patrick Curry from WGN News and moderator Valerie Denney from Denney Communications all began the panel with the intention of helping an audience of people from nonprofits better understand how to get their nonprofit organization's story into the news and raise their profile. But, the more they talked, the more the following meme emerged: "Report your own story."
I attended the panel session as a volunteer for Community Media Workshop and was very hesitant to take issue with the course of conversation during the discussion. I was not a nonprofit hoping to gain something. I was an observer with a fair amount of knowledge of shifting trends in media and an interest in the future of journalism in America.
Cahan reasonably suggested that nonprofits "find out who reporters are" so that the right person to cover a story could be found. She then suggested that nonprofits could videotape what they do and mentioned that they could record audio for a "soundbite of the day." And, she suggested people take photos as well.
This could be posted on the organization's website so that when nonprofits sent emails requesting coverage from a news organization that news organization could go to the website and mine it for content for their story on the nonprofit.
Curry provided a valuable tip and reminded nonprofits to make sure video recorded is "visual" so it could be aired. He also went along with the idea of reporting on your nonprofit organization and then posting it or submitting it to the news organization so it could be picked up.
He mentioned that the WGN station "cut file tape from YouTube" when they could not get out into the field to develop a story or don't want to go out and develop a story and he said the "more work you do for us, the easier it is to put it on."
I had known that journalism was in trouble but never had I seen it laid out so clear right before my eyes. The people on the panel weren't exhibiting a sense of journalistic duty and integrity so much as they were demonstrating that news is now about management (and public relations). And, if community can fit into a news organization's limited budget for management of operations, then news would be happy to include the nonprofits.
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