The Changing Role of the Media

By Michelle Xiong

The media is as inseparable as ever in today’s politics; it plays a critical role in conveying information to the public. In Greenwich, the municipal elections this November drew attention when a wave of new candidates, mostly women, had petitioned their way onto the ballot for the Representative Town Body (RTM). The elections attracted many vocal voices in town and it was even covered by the New York Times and Vogue. The editor of the Greenwich Free Press needed to deactivate the comments section of the site because of the volume of anonymous comments on articles. In the digital age, the way we consume news has changed a lot but it is by no means obsolete.

Last June, I had the opportunity to attend Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism conference in Washington, DC. It was an illuminating experience with engaging discussions and presentations by many of the nation’s top journalists. Three of the speakers stood out to me as they shared their perspectives about the role of the media in American life, in politics, and about where the media industry is heading in the coming years.

Sarah Ganim was one of the journalist that talked about her experience at the conference. She is one of the youngest recipients of the Pulitzer prize when she won in 2012 for her reporting on a sex scandal involving the Penn State football. Sarah delved into the challenges she faced while writing about the scandal. Because she was just starting as a journalist, few people took her seriously so she needed to persistently ask and contact people who might know information. Her advice is to “Have clips on hand and to start writing quickly,” noting that once you have some accurate and serious articles published, more sources will be open to talking.  She addressed how to cover sensitive issues such as sexual abuse: “When writing you don’t have to remove all feelings, but it’s important to be fair.” Sarah Ganim is now a correspondent for CNN.

David Fahrenthold, a reporter at the Washington Post, shared his experience reporting during the 2016 presidential election. He broke the news about the Access Hollywood tape on Donald Trump and also earned a Pulitzer Prize last year for his investigation into the Trump Foundation and Donald Trump’s charitable donations. From his work doing investigative journalism he’s learned that the best way is to “work from the outside in.” He makes sure to take notes on many details and also writes lists of every name that could be associated with the news.

Another guest I loved hearing from was not a writer but a photographer. Doug Mills is a photographer for the New York Times who has had a long career covering sports and politics. He has covered a diverse array of situations from the Olympic games to inside the White House. Mills discussed how he got his clearance to join the thirteen-member press group that accompanies the President everywhere and he also talked about some of the newest technology in photography. He now sets up many remote cameras in the ceiling and other angles to get views he can’t get in person. One change he has observed in the industry is the increasing speed that photographs reach publication because photos are not digital and can be edited quickly. He also said that since everyone has a phone with a camera on them these days, videos and photos from everyday people are increasingly the best sources for breaking news footage.

Americans still follow the news. According to Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans talk about the news with their family and friends. The same study indicated however that the role of journalists has shifted. 81% of people receive some form of their news on online platforms such as social media. The media industry today requires skill in a variety of mediums and more creativity to transform news into an interactive experience.


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