Why Media Advocacy Matters for Communicators
Lauren Parker, Vice President of Communications, Hot Paper Lantern
A few weeks ago, I found myself watching – and re-watching – a video on Jim Acosta’s Instagram feed. The CNN Chief White House Correspondent captured a snippet of unrelenting vitriol he faces from the press pool at Trump rallies across the country. The video was unsettling, but not just because of the bad behavior it displayed. I took it personally, and here’s why: as communications professionals, this directly impacts our profession. The value of our skill in working with journalists to include information and perspective from the organizations, institutions and individuals we represent hinges on the credibility of the reporter’s output.
When the term “fake news” is applied to any news, or any news that someone disagrees with, it’s dangerous. It’s true not all reporting is created equal. The number of shady, ideologically extreme, and downright fabricated news increases by the day. Just as we tell our clients that anyone can be a publisher, I could build a website and publish anything I want. Many people with a variety of motivations have done just that.
But the fact is, the number of well-intentioned, ethical journalists at news institutions is far greater than the number of those that aren’t. Exceptional investigative journalism happens daily at behemoth outlets like The New Yorker and Reuters, as well as local and regional outlets like The Dallas Morning News and Tampa Bay Times. And with the addition of many exceptional and unconventional digital-based outlets like Buzzfeed, Vox, Quartz and even Vice, our definition of a credible news institution continues to broaden.
Those of us close to the news world understand the dedication, rigor, and high standards applied in these newsrooms. We can navigate The New York Times homepage and recognize the difference between Breaking News, Opinions and posts by The Editorial Board. We can decipher native advertising and sponsored content from editorials. We read, watch, listen to and interact with news from a variety of sources, constantly shifting the filter through which we process the information.
More so than ever, media advocacy is essential for everyone. Fortunately, some schools are already implementing media literacy programs. Donations to pro-media non-profits are up, including a $250,000 contribution by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos to the News Literacy Project earlier this year. So, what else can we do?
- Offer your expertise. When given the chance in conversation on- or off-line, share your knowledge about how newsrooms work, the due diligence that goes into credible reporting, and examples from your experience working with journalists.
- Call it like you see it. If you see a dubious article floating around your newsfeed, politely point out why you think it is not credible and try to direct the person to a viable alternative.
- Show reporters you have their backs. Stand up for our journalist friends who face criticism and concerns for their safety abroad and, sadly, at home. You can do this in person, on social media, or consider making a donation to The Committee to Protect Journalists.
- Pay for your news. Commit to funding credible journalism, be it a newspaper or magazine subscription, or a regular contribution to your local NPR station.
Let’s support journalists as they are essential to the health and well-being of society and our profession. Our credibility depends on their credibility.
This article was originally published in CommPro.