Nowadays, with more PR people than journalists churning out the news, it’s everyone’s job to help those in publishing get it right. Our democracy depends on it. So even though I’ve been on one side or the other of the journalistic fence for more than 30 years, it’s not pure selfishness that drives my fears regarding the fate of what we now call the “traditional media.”
Underlying my fears is a rising sense of frustration. Every day I search the local editorial and commentary sections for voices that sound like me (educated, affluent female, not a woman with a male persona, just a woman who cares about what most women care about).
In the May/June 2005 issue of Extra!, which is published by FAIR, a group that advocates fairness and accuracy in reporting, Julie Hollar’s column, “Opinion omission: Women hard to find on op-ed pages, TV panels,” reported that women opinion writers make up only 19.5 percent of the writers for opinion pages in the Los Angeles Times, 16.9 percent at the New York Times, and 10.4 percent at the Washington Post. But the media filter that’s kept people like me largely off the opinion pages is still in full force, despite the obvious hints editors should be getting from the enviable popularity of social media.
Some accused the airlines of management failure when they couldn’t survive the past decade’s ferocious increases in industry competition. The same accusation could be hurled at members of traditional media management for their failure to see what’s been staring them in the face every morning when they turn on their computers.
If anyone is responsible for the demise of quality media content, it’s the old-school media managers who should have figured out much sooner that more people want to participate in the media; they don’t want news about an exclusive few (mostly white males).
Media managers must begin targeting today’s target audiences and stop pandering to kids who are too busy with Facebook to care about the world beyond their immediate peer group.
If traditional media management would focus more on news that’s relevant to women like me, and to people of color, the young and the old, rather than a narrow strand of our diverse population, maybe it could save itself from extinction.
Lynn Nelson is a public-relations consultant and an adjunct instructor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org