Sustainable Journalism Against All Odds

By Andie Mirabal


New Mexico First is a public policy think tank. Their recent First Forum event, featured some of New Mexico’s top journalists to discuss sustainable journalism in the state of New Mexico.

The journalism panel was led by New Mexico PBS’s Gene Grant. He moderated a panel that included the Associated Press’ Russell Conteras, USA Today’s Jessica Onsurez and KOB-TV’s general manager Michelle Donaldson. The overarching theme was Sustainable Journalism, preserving the Fourth Estate.

The discussion surrounded the ideas of media literacy, creating a value proposition for high level journalism, and the lack of young journalists who are invested in their community. Three ideas, that seem to parallel education in our state. Tom Garrity says “having a television remote control makes everyone an expert on television and since many people have been in a school classroom it also makes then an expert on public education. First-hand experience is one thing, understanding how it all happens is completely different.”

Why am I comparing the education industry to the news industry?

This goes back to the value proposition and media literacy. Let’s start with the value proposition. Top level journalism is dependent on consumers being able to understand and place value on investing in news outlets. As KOB’s Michelle Donaldson said in the discussion, you get what you pay for. However, in a state that where nearly one-fifth of our residents live in poverty and more than 40% qualify for some kind federal assistance, how does traditional news media (television, radio, newspaper) create a high level of importance for consumers, who are more focused on meeting their basic needs than state issues?

More than that, with a flight of Millennials from New Mexico, the majority of news consumption is from the remaining Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers. These two groups did not grow up using the internet as we do today, meaning that they have had to learn to navigate digital news (blogs, social media, online news apps). Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers also tend to be more culturally influenced and are more likely to trustnews from their family, friends and neighbors. But, as mentioned during the forum, one of the aspects of high-quality journalism is fact checking – something that most word-of-mouth news, lacks.

How do our reporters combat the more trusted but less accurate word-of-mouth news?

And if on average, the teachers in New Mexico are a part of Generation X (according to the PED, the average age of teachers in New Mexico is about 46), how can we expect a group that is not a native to this technology, to manage the media literacy for the younger generations? Complicating the matter further, how many students are being raised by their grandparents? And are they equipped to lead news and communication efforts in this new realm? If it takes a village to raise a child, is the village even equipped to provide the guidance young people need in this day and age?

These questions are part of a multi-faceted reform and do not have one solution.

And although this issue does lead with the need for media literacy for teachers within major institutions and for caregivers of students, it also requires standards to be created and support from the various industries.

For example, two leaders of the media literacy initiative are The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and PBS. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has created an online workshop for English teachers that includes webinars, lesson plans and online discussions. PBS on the other hand has created a media literacy educator certification.

This certification sets the standard for being media literate. The Holocaust Museum provides an opportunity for teachers to think through some of these concepts. Lucky enough, New Mexico has the opportunity to adapt some of these practices and create a unified media literacy standard and education system unique to our state.

Instead of creating a program solely for English teachers, it would be beneficial to incorporate opportunities for other teachers to become engaged. History papers and science research projects also benefit from a higher level of journalism.

And though this is a cause that will need more than that, it would be the start of a new direction for the industry.

About Andie Mirabal

Andie Mirabal is the Director at The Garrity Group. She is a visual media enthusiast with a love for telling stories. To learn more about Andie, click here.

Published June 24, 2019

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