Times change; the mission doesn’t
May 10, 2018
When I first started to read the comments, I admit, I was disappointed.
"There is no such things as journalism," was a common posting. Another was, "All news is fake news."
It seemed to fill the feed of our social media outlets as we promoted the inaugural Colorado Journalism Week, which was April 16-22.
That was not the goal, or at least not the response, we had hoped for when we first began working on the project, which the Colorado Press Association worked in partnership with the Colorado Broadcasters Association and Colorado Media Alliance.
No, our goal was to celebrate and honor the hard work and ideals of Colorado's working press. And at first blush, I wondered if all we did was give ammunition to an anti-media, anti-journalism environment.
Nearly 60 percent of the comments were critical of journalism and media. But those comments came from a handful of people.
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Perhaps they were the proverbial "trolls" on the internet looking for confrontation. I hope not. I prefer to believe they are people who will be willing to discuss the state of the industry to move it forward as well as protect our democracy.
Because it's a dangerous place in which the only truth we have is the truth we already believe.
Our forefathers felt so strongly about the press and its role in holding government accountable, they placed the press in with the first amendment as part of the bedrock beliefs of our country, alongside freedom of speech and religion.
We have to acknowledge that we are facing a crisis of trust — which I would argue is both false narrative but also some of the media's own making. But with crisis comes opportunities.
I encourage those in the media and those who have a distrust of the media to meet, and have a focus on conversation and not confrontation. Set up meetings. Set up events. Meet with people face to face. And my question for those who state, "All news is fake news," and "Journalism is dead," is what steps would you like to see to start to change your mind?
Perhaps you, who distrust the media, have some ideas. Perhaps not. We would love to have that conversation.
As we consider those who think less of the media or journalism, it's also important to remember those who support those concepts.
While the aforementioned comments I saw provided more sting, when I looked at the whole picture, more than 95 percent of the people on the social media promotions targeted at Colorado residents liked, shared and commented positively on what we did. When I looked at it closely, the 60 percent of negative comments accounted for less than 3 percent of overall response (the other 2 percent of negative response being angry emojis).
I'm not saying 95 percent of people support what we do, but I think its misleading for us to fall into the narrative that the majority of people think all news is fake. We need to realize there is more trust and more desire for journalism than we sometimes think due to the current culture.
The real crisis is not one of trust, but one of understanding. But again, with crisis comes opportunities. We must continue to tell our story. We’re great at telling other’s stories, but not our own.
And that’s a shame, because what Colorado journalists do matters.
We need to promote the importance of the work of the journalists in Pueblo, who listened to staffers at the Colorado Mental Health Institute who were saying that the facility had become dangerously understaffed. Or those in Glenwood Springs, who found a way for immigrants, who make up a third of the population in the county, to become engaged via "Common Ground" stories and community forums. Or those in Colorado Springs, who shared the story of a Marine with PTSD who ended his life and exemplified some failures by the military to take care of its own.
Our job is to build on that momentum. Colorado Journalism Week was never meant to be a landing place. It was always meant to be a launching pad to start a conversation and help us create a better sense of understanding.
From the big to the small — such as listing community calendars — newspaper media and journalistic-inclined media organizations have helped improve communities.
And that's what good journalism does: holds government and business accountable but also tells its community's story. And I would argue in today's climate, good media companies need to ensure they're in conversations with their communities.
We're proud to support Colorado journalism, not just one week a year. We're proud to support it every week.
Because every week — and every day — it matters.
Jerry Raehal is CEO of Colorado Press Association and Colorado Press Network.
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