by Gillian Van Horn, guest writer
What is the state of journalism like in Colorado right now?
It’s been a long couple years for journalism in Colorado Springs. Back in May of this year, the board of directors at Citizen-Powered Media brought back two brands familiar to local readers, The Colorado Springs Independent, also known as the Indy, and the Colorado Business Journal – after an attempt to rebrand the two together as sixty35. The board now faces a long lasting fundraising campaign. Zach Ben-Amots from Rocky Mountain PBS claims “If successful, the campaign could save several local, independent publications from the brink of death. If not, south-central Colorado will lose an important source of accountability reporting and cultural criticism, and become the latest casualty in a national crisis for local news.”
On the other hand, we have The Gazette, owned by Clarity Media Group. Clarity Media Group is an advertising company. Which means the people who own it are not local to Colorado, therefore they have no real interest in our communities. A writer for UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media touched on the danger of things like this when she said “ The consolidation in this industry places decisions about the future of individual papers, as well as the communities where they are located, into the hands of owners with no direct stake in the outcome.”
We are locally in a place of either having to fight really hard to protect our journalism, or sell out to save ourselves and have our positions be somewhat compromised. The business model that supported local news throughout the last century is now falling apart, leaving places like the Colorado Independent to reach for new models – for-profit, non-profit, and even publicly funded – as they attempt to fill the void.
How can we as students help our journalism program?
Staying locally informed and focused is a lot easier than it might seem! Head of the journalism program Sarah McMahon says that “Students can help by simply paying attention to the Paper. The more students engage with their own publication (whether as writers or readers), the richer the publication becomes. Journalism is community; it’s a reflection of what is happening directly around us.
For PPSC students, we offer helpful information, clarification on college issues, promotions of fun events/music, coverage of some college events, etc.” If you already read the paper and you’re looking for even more ways to be locally involved, there are many publications around the city that cover a variety of local news. As stated above, The Gazette and The Colorado Springs Indy are great places to start.
How do we become more locally focused and informed?
As a culture, we desperately need to come back to our own communities. Our attentions are so divided and lured to far-off spaces around the globe that we are less and less engaged with our own backyards. It’s critical to engage with local news.
Read the newspaper!
Local television news (I’m not even going to address national infotainment) has its merits and is important, but it’s nice to read the news without all the pomp and circumstance. We actually have power in our own communities to make change and improve particular issues. But, without knowing what is going on, without engaging with local news, we can’t make informed decisions in voting or civic engagement. Democracy only works when people know what’s going on.
What would losing local journalism look like?
Local news outlets play an important role in informing members of the community about local government, elections, and other events. They also help to shape community views around common values and beliefs, which creates a sense of shared purpose that can be a powerful united force within a town or county. Without a source for local news, communities get most of their news from social media, leaving them vulnerable to mis- information and tiring political division. As students of a newer generation, it leaves us especially vulnerable to not trust news outlets as a whole.
It’s vital that we invest our efforts into local journalism in an attempt to rebuild trust lost between us and journalists as a whole. We have to be the change we want to see, and that starts with being locally involved with the things happening here, first. Our local newspapers help with that. A 2011 report by the Federal Communications Commission found that local newspapers are the best way to provide the sort of ‘public service journalism’ that shines a light on the major issues confronting communities and gives people the information they need to solve their problems.
Why should we care about preserving local journalism?
The New York Bar Association ( NYBA) reports that ‘Over the past 15 years, the United States has lost one-fourth of its local newspapers – 2,100 publications including 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies. As a result, hundreds of communities – inner city neighborhoods, suburban towns and rural counties – are without reliable sources of local news and information.’ Losing local journalism is just the first step to losing journalism as a whole.
We underestimate the power we hold as a People when we have easy access to information regarding what’s going on around us, and how much less skeptical we are of this information when it’s being provided to us by our own communities. NYBA also reports in an article titled”Why local news matters and how we can save it” states that “abundant research in recent years has found that strong local journalism builds social cohesion, encourages political participation, and improves the efficiency and decision-making of local and state government.”
It’s sometimes difficult to understand or care about social or political issues when they are being brought to you on a largely scoped scale, instead of reading about how those issues are happening in your own backyard. You can’t make change at a high level if you don’t start at the lower ones. We as students are the ones that have the most to lose when we talk about losing local journalism. The sooner in our lives that we decide we don’t care about news, or staying connected, the sooner we become a victim of not getting to have a choice.
Big corporations are banking on us not caring, so that it’s easier to take advantage of us, and simply profit off of telling us whatever it is they want to. Which means we have to care. We need to be involved and pay attention. We have to save the news outlets that give us everything we complain about huge news outlets not giving us.
Who should be interested?
People who have a burning desire to make change. Curious people who set out to find an unbiased truth. Passionate people who want to protect the rights of journalism. Young People who know social media and how to use it to their advantage.
What does the journalism program at PPSC entail?
According to the PPSC website, “Journalism studies at PPSC focus on the study of mass media, reporting, feature writing, publication design, and editing. Students will learn about the multiple angles of mass communication from the internet to the printed page. In addition, students will learn to interview, research, and write feature, newspaper and magazine articles, headlines, news releases, and advertisements. Also students will use the courses to update their skills in the digital age of news, social media, and web content.”
When can you get involved? Next semester, add a course! Or right now by reading the school paper.
Where can you get involved? Right here at PPSC
Why should you get involved?
Publisher of the New York Times A.G Sulzburg wrote an article back in 2018 about the state of journalism then and he said, “News organizations are shrinking and dying under sustained financial duress. Press freedoms are under intensifying pressure.” Journalism is essential to some of our fundamental rights as a country and it’s vital that people who care get involved. Social media has given many new and innovative paths for journalism. And a Journalism degree can open the door to other jobs, or other degrees. The classes offered provide a new outlook on the ways we are all affected by the media, and our consumption of it. If nothing else, it will give a new found way to look at yourself and the things around you.