Monday, December 26, 2016

What Will Media Mean in 2017?

Mainstream media took it on the chin in 2016, condemned from the right for not respecting Donald Trump and from the left for respecting Donald Trump.

It feels a bit like we’re in a fact-free social media universe, and pointing out that the emperor has no clothes or the new President has no clue is not a way to win hearts and minds these days. If anything, as a culture we’re too heart oriented anyway, with feelings easily trumping facts.

Well, I’m not sure what the New Year will bring. Frankly, it was a mystery to me that anybody ever paid any attention to Breitbart News in the wake of the 2010 Shirley Sherrod scandal. Then again, that was six years ago in another time and place, a country BT (before Trump) when quaint things called “facts” were sometimes shared and understood.

So, good riddance to 2016, year of the “fake news.” Let’s hope you were some kind of nadir, because if we’ve not hit bottom yet, I’m not sure I want to experience how low we can go. Then again, it remains to be seen what four years of a presidency dominated by an ignorant narcissist with low regard for facts and little knowledge of the First Amendment will do.

Anyway, while the national mainstream media are in full post core meltdown mode, there are changes that are important, if less momentous on the local level.

I wrote about changes in local media for my column in the Corridor Business Journal.

Since that November column, it’s been revealed that two mainstays of journalism at The Gazette are retiring—George C. Ford, a business writer; and Orlan Love, who covers the outdoors and environmental issues.

The Gazette had interesting stories about both. It’s business editor wrote this about Ford. A former metro editor wrote a very nice guest column about Love.

Monarch this summer at Cedar Lake. My photo.
Love is more prominent in my mind, although, I admit, that’s partly because I’m more of an environmentally aware gardener than a business aware person. I actually sought out Love’s stories in the local newspaper. I enjoyed his insights. Although he is a hunter and a fisher—two things I am not—as a gardener and bicyclist, I still enjoyed his outdoor adventures.

This year, I wanted to start an effort to plant milkweed at the university where I teach. Nothing has come of that effort yet, but I plan to pursue it next year. Anyway, I wrote about the idea on my gardening blog, and referenced a story by Love in that post.

Love received what seems to me to be one of the most meaningful legacies a reporter could hope for. A donor in summer announced that a $200,000 donation will be made to create a pollinator habitat in his honor, as reported in this Gazette story. It's not exactly a Pulitzer Prize, but still--it's an entirely appropriate ongoing remembrance of an important local writer.

So, there have been a number of media changes in 2016. I hope that 2017 doesn’t stack up to be too similar a year. Journalists have a duty to try to persevere through adversity and to serve the truth. These are not easy times for that effort. But may it carry on.