In light of the events of the 2016 presidential election, and the role of media throughout the race, an open panel of Tulsa journalists, authors and news anchors gathered to discuss the role of media in society and how that role has changed with the development of technology. Michael Mason, author and founding editor of This Land Press; Clay Loney, Fox 23 anchor; Ziva Branstetter, editor-in-chief of The Frontier; Charles Ely, anchor for KTUL; Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World staff writer; and Cliff Adcock, journalist at Oklahoma Watch, all had a lot to say about technology and its effect on media coverage.
When asked how technology has changed the media, the panelists all generally stated that technology has advanced the ease and reach of journalistic endeavors across all forms of media. Krehbiel believes this technological revolution began early, citing that “FM radio created nice broadcasting, cable TV created cable news and the internet created 300 million printing presses in the US alone…turning a mass media society into a fragmented, niche news society.” Branstetter asserted that “the ability to report events from any platform anywhere and the ability to be your own platform” has increased the reach and immediate relevance of journalism.
In response, Mason readily admitted that the smartphone in particular creates new citizen journalists every day, but believes “citizen journalists are often able to do what newspapers and journalist often can’t: crowd-sourced investigative reporting.” Loney, however, disagreed, stating: “I doesn’t trust a lot of what I see online because it’s too easy to fake it. It’s easier to get information, but it’s also easier to access BS.”
The most relevant problem today, according to Ely, is deciding who to cater to when writing articles, especially since the internet allows immediate feedback. A problem most journalists face is whether to frame something for readers on social media sites such as Twitter or whether to write their articles more traditionally. Adcock agreed, saying “you can see in real time how many views and shares you get…it drives how we write and what is written.” With all our options, there is no longer any such thing as watching/reading the news, but rather the conundrum of which news to watch/read.
With particular regard for the election, Adcock said: “What legitimized Trump was his relationship with the media…whenever they attacked him, it only solidified his support. It was mutually beneficial in the worst way.” In response, Krehbiel stated: “Our profession gets in trouble when we don’t listen enough…during the election the national media pontificated too much and didn’t listen enough.” Ely similarly admitted that “journalism abdicated its ethics to the big picture during the election,” supported by Branstetter’s claim that “Trump got more free media than anyone because he’s very savvy at getting attention.” While Mason may not agree with the outcome of the election, he remarked: “the election represents the most exciting, revolutionary leaps in journalism: frenzied multi-dimensional voices all creating a single narrative.” Adcock agreed, saying “the coverage of Trump throughout the election was an example of how social media drives journalistic agenda.”
At the conclusion of the panel, the members all agreed with Branstetter’s assessment of media trends: “People are starting to follow journalists more than organizations…it’s about trust and willingness to approach things in different ways and to try new things.” Similarly, Krehbiel stated: “It’s nice to have different kinds of media: the ones willing to take the risks and the button-down, cautious ones as well.” Ultimately, “facts and truth are not always the same…there may not be alternate facts, but there are other interpretations of reality…the trick is sifting through it,” said Krehbiel.