The American news media is beset by challenges—technology offering new ways to disseminate news, changes in how news organizations are funded and the rise of political talking heads.
And that’s a very quick summary of the issues.
On Friday, WFPL convened a panel to discuss a national news media landscape in flux.
Diane Rehm, host of NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, was joined on the panel by James Miller, duPont Manual High School journalism chair and WFPL media critic; Donovan Reynolds, president of Louisville Public Media; and Keith Runyon, former editorial page editor for The Courier-Journal. Gabe Bullard, WFPL’s director for news and editorial strategy, moderated.
“I think what we’re hearing increasingly is a presentation that is not news focused, but, rather, opinion focused,” Rehm told the audience in Louisville Public Media’s performance studio.
Still, conservative talk host Rush Limbaugh intrigues her.
Rehm said she listens to Limbaugh daily.
“I want to know how he takes a simple fact and turns it one-quarter of an inch to create a new fact,” Rehm said.
The panel also discussed the funding sources for news organizations. Much of the discussion focused on a New Yorker story about a public television station’s attempt to placate David Koch—the businessman known for supporting conservative and libertarian causes, and a board member for that television station—when an unflattering documentary was scheduled to air.
Runyon noted that these situations aren’t new.
For instance, The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times would publish stories critical of certain cars for sale.
“Every time that happened, the car dealers would march into the publisher’s office,” Runyon said, noting that the publishers would support the editorial content despite threats to pull advertising.
In those days, a car dealership that pulled its advertising inevitably returned—because they needed that advertising to sell cars, Ruynon said. But businesses have more advertising options today, which means news organizations face greater challenges to stick with their stories.
The panelists also discussed the challenges of accurate reporting in an environment—with 24-hour cable news and the Internet— where breaking news first has become greatly valued. Rehm noted the Supreme Court’s ruling last year on the Affordable Care Act, which some news organizations initially got wrong. She noted that she read inaccurate news reports from other news organization live on air and had to correct it.
The panel also discussed changing demographics of news consumers, the need for investigative journalism, Internet journalism and much more.
You can listen to the entire discussion below.