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One of the guest speakers, a self-described “technology guru” for the then-fledgling Clinton administration gleefully informed us that we were all dinosaurs.Politicians like his boss, he said, would be able to use the internet to deliver their messages directly to the people, unfiltered by the media. As has been pointed out over and over again in this space by our media critics Neal Gabler, Todd Gitlin and Alicia Shepard, “fake” news isn’t just the made-up kind you see on your Facebook feed (the new supermarket tabloid rack). Fake news is all of those things real news outlets have begun to resort to in the absence of the resources and the will to cover the real thing. It is slow, painstaking work, much of it done for little remuneration and well below the national radar — certainly below the radar of Chartbeat, the gizmo that rules far too many newsrooms by advising editors of what’s getting clicks and what’s not.reporters, describes what their paper was like before (as has happened at too many other papers) digital advertising gutted newsroom budgets and investment companies bought out more civic-minded owners to fire-sale the wreckage.Because the book is written by reporters, it’s an honest description of an organization that, like many of its day, could be racist and sexist (though one lively chapter by Muriel Dobbin recounts how she became the first woman in the paper’s Washington bureau).Eve Ewing, a well-known poet and writer who teaches at the nearby University of Chicago, led a narrative workshop.The nonprofit recruits reporters with different levels of experience to work in teams to cover stories from a community perspective and then their work is published by professional partners.It’s just human nature that we tend to stand up straighter and behave better when we know someone’s watching.
More than 20 years ago, I and a bunch of other Washington journalists were packed into a classroom at American University for a weeklong boot camp designed to teach us about computers and this new-fangled thing that was just beginning to be called the internet.In Orange County, California, the Voice of OC, emblazons its mission on either side of its masthead: “Give voice to the voiceless” and “Hold people in power accountable.” Launched by investigative reporter Norberto Santana Jr., the site is heading towards its seventh anniversary of providing what he describes as “insider intell with outsider perspective” in the midst of a First Amendment battle lawsuit and while watchdogging a homeless shelter that Santana credits the news organization’s reporting with getting established.Voice of OC’s homepage features a calendar that alerts readers to upcoming municipal meetings.And these beats were assigned only when a reporter had won the “absolute confidence of the desk” with a series of stories carefully vetted by editors and the rewrite desk.Too bad legendary quote-pipers Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass didn’t have that kind of supervision.