Author: Jason Puhr
The day of reckoning has almost arrived. Election day, 2016. The day either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will (likely) take to the White House as the new President of the United States of America. It’s been a long, tiring election season. I’ve covered a Hillary Clinton rally at 6 in the morning. At a Donald Trump rally, I was personally escorted out of a building by the U.S. Secret Service. I’ve met old, white men who have been Republicans since birth, and they are voting for Clinton. I’ve met young, black men who voted for President Barack Obama, and they are voting for Trump.
As a reporter I have seen the many highs and many lows of our country during the past year, and let me tell you something; there are some really great people in our country. There are people who are educated. Who are informed. Who know what their candidate stands for and know why they stand with him/her. But, for every great person there’s another who cares more about each candidate's dirty laundry than they do policy, intent, or plans for our nation.
When I say this to people I’m told that if I / my station would cover those topics, then they would be informed. The media glorifies the garbage, they say. They exacerbate the truth, they say.
The problem here though, lies not in the media or the coverage. (Most of the time.)
It lies in the consumer and the source.
If you're reading this article you probably get News online. You also probably get at least some of your news from social media. In a 2016 study by the Pew Research Foundation (1) a survey found that 62% of adult Americans get news on Social Media. Can you believe that! Six out of 10 American adults get news on social media. That’s a huge percentage! But, can social media news always be trusted? Many times, yes. But not always.
As a reporter, I have one big question for anyone getting their news mostly from social media: Did you read beyond the headline?
Headlines are great, and great stations employ people just to write headlines. In the TV world’s case, it’s teases; but headlines don’t tell you the whole story. They give you a snippet. A glimpse. Enough to grab your attention, and sometimes form your opinion.
The headline reading HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CASE REOPENED gets your attention. But, did you read the article to see why? Did you see it started with an investigation into former Congressman Anthony Weiner? Weiner recently separated from top Clinton aide Huma Abedin
because of a sexting scandal. Abedin sent emails that were questioned and later cleared.
Yes, the truth is that the email case was reopened, but there’s more to it. Headlines on social media lead to shares and likes and comments, but not always information. Have you ever shared an article on your Facebook wall before reading it? If you have, you’re not alone.
Donald Trump in particular has filled social media with crazy quotes and noise all election season. Has it done him more harm than good? We’ll see soon. But, he’s definitely grabbed attention.
The flip side to this is why do News organizations cover these things? Why do we tell you every time a new email is found? Why do we tell you every time Trump says something racist? Or threatens nuclear warfare? Or gets rejected by a baby?
We do so because we exist to compete for your attention, and you eat up all the headlines. Investigative reporting takes time. Time to do and time to read. But a headline, that takes just a second of your time. I often refer to my nitch in News as the “doom and gloom” beat. I’m the morning reporter, and almost every morning I cover a fire, or a car crash or a deadly shooting. At every story I ask someone, the police chief, the neighbor, anyone, what would you like us to cover more often? Every time I hear one of two answers: Investigative pieces or Personal stories.
So, I do those stories. I find them. I write them. I report them. I post them.
The response is about 2 likes on facebook and no retweets on twitter.
On the other hand, if I post a live update from a scene titled “4 people shot, 1 killed,” it will get shared 12 times and viewed more than 1000 times.
Before election day, make sure you’re informed. Don’t get consumed by the gossip, the anger or the opinions. Find the facts from a credible source. National Public Radio is a great, reliable one. And, they’ve broken down what both candidates stand for on major issues.
As far as your news goes, you can change what you see. It all starts with you and what news you consume. It continues with me and what news I cover. But the industry will continue to give you what you want and what you click on. Every click is monitored. Every view is documented.
The days of “If it bleeds, it leads” can go away. Death and destruction don’t have to control your news casts. That dominated the 70’s and the 80’s and the 90’s. But a new age of journalism is upon us. Younger reporters are flooding into the field. We don’t want to tell you those stories, but we will if you do.
Gottfried, Jeffrey, and Elisa Shearer. "News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016." Pew Research Centers Journalism Project RSS. N.p., 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
About the Author: Jason Puhr is a millennial TV Reporter / Journalist for FOX 45 news and ABC 22 news in Dayton, Ohio. He attended Ball State University from 2011 to 2015 where he graduated Cume Laude with a double major in Telecommunications and Journalism, and an honors college diploma. In college he worked as a reporter and board operator for Indiana Public Radio, a National Public Radio affiliate station. He also lettered as a member of the Ball State Football Team.