Local journalists explore media and news in the 21st century

By NEHA SANGANA | April 18, 2019

Inform, Discuss, Enlighten, Acknowledge, Learn (IDEAL) JHU hosted a discussion on the role of local news and journalism in Baltimore on Wednesday, April 18. The discussion was moderated by Political Science Professor Emeritus and Academy Professor Matthew Crenson. The event featured Doug Donovan, an investigative reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and Ron Cassie, a senior editor at Baltimore Magazine

The discussion emphasized how the internet has changed the way journalism and the media function, forcing them to accommodate a new mode of news consumption. The media consequently has had to develop new tactics in order to target audiences online. Since an increasing percentage of Americans get their news primarily from the internet, newspaper business models have adapted to keep readership. 

“The web really broke apart the business model for journalism,” Cassie said. “Eighty percent of our revenue still comes from print, but we now have people who are digital editors and digital reporters.”

Donovan foregrounded the development of new technology strategies that the media must employ. 

“Now we are focusing on coding our stories to ensure they’re getting the most visibility online and on social media,” Donovan said. “Digital subscription is the key — we have to give people stuff they can’t get anywhere else.”

The conversation underscored the need for the media to provide balanced media coverage of Baltimore. Although Cassie acknowledged that the magazine sometimes puts a more glamorous spin on Baltimore, he believed that the positive and negative sides of the city should be combined in order to give the full picture of the city. 

Donovan agreed, emphasizing the primary role of the Baltimore Sun, which is to accurately inform the local community of events regardless of whether they are good or bad. He said that readers needed to know what was happening in their neighborhoods.

Sophomore Jason Souvaliotis, who attended the talk, said that he was intrigued by Donovan and Cassie’s explanation of the intent and structure behind reporting the news.

“It’s really interesting to think about how the news we get shapes what we think — but even more so to see what goes into the making of these articles,” Souvaliotis said. 

Cassie reflected positively on his career, citing that a highlight of his job was getting to spend everyday learning about people and their lives. Donovan also elaborated on his experiences with journalism, encouraging students to get involved with news outlets. He said that news media companies can favor hiring young people as journalists, since they add more diversity and bring a different kind of energy to their reporting. 

IDEAL member Gabrielle Grifno, who helped organize the talk, explained that interacting with members of the news media could help expose students to potential careers and the impact they could have. 

“It’s important to foster our presence by getting students involved in the community via local media,” Grifno said. “Students could look into internships at local magazines or newspapers. A lot of people forget that the media is powerful way of taking action and having an impact on the city.”

President Donald J. Trump has continually blamed the media for spreading fake news, referring to liberal-leaning media outlets as inimical to the American people. Donovan addressed such criticisms, but pointed to conspiracists as the real cause of false information. 

“There is some fake news out there,” Donovan said. “There are crazies spinning conspiracy theories out there — take Alex Jones for example.”

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