The Relationships of Journalism

Journalists know the best stories are about people, and include emotions. In the classroom I often get the question how do you find those stories. My answer, remember journalism is about relationships.

The first relationship is that with your audience.

Television, radio, newspaper, digital each platform has an audience. As a journalist, it is your job to deliver stories that engage and enrichen your audience.  Know your audience!

Thanks to the digital world more organizations than ever have insight into the online audience.

There are plenty of ways to research your audience. Nieman Reports talks about the importance of making the significant relevant by understanding the audience.

Building trust with your audience takes time. The Knight Foundation released a report in September 2018 about why people do, or do not, trust the media. The report called Indicators of News Media Trust shows most Americans believe that trust can be restored. The good news from the Poynter Institute is trust is being repaired, especially when it comes to local media. An article published in August 2018 called Finally some good news: Trust is news is up, especially for local media shows the importance of building that relationship with your audience.

One way to earn that trust is to produce content relevant to their daily life, and show the impact of the story. I have often said my best stories came from the playground. When my children were younger, I would pick them up from school each day and talk with the other moms. Through listening to their concerns about education, the economy, crime in the neighborhood I was able to tackle the issues impacting the community.  Newsrooms may know more about their audience thanks to social media and other digital tools, but that does not entirely replace the reporter who goes into the community and talks with people. That connection to your audience will help build trust and give you a strong understanding of the values and stories that are important.

The second relationship is with your sources.

Similar to building trust with your audience, you need to build trust with your sources within the community. This does not mean only tell the positive side of a story and never report when your sources that may have a negative impact on the community. Building trust with your sources translates to being honest with them, tell the person you are interviewing on the street where and when the story will be published and that it will be online as well. The Ethical Journalism Network has published Ethical ground Rules for Handling Sources. The article covers issues including anonymous sources, and when human rights trump the source’s right to privacy. Journalists have to consider sources at every turn. How you treat your sources will follow you from one job to the next.

The third relationship is with your colleagues.

Journalism does not happen in a vacuum. It takes a team to produce that newscast, newspaper article, radio story or online content. There are editors, sales team members, researchers, and even interns. It is essential to respect each role of the process and understand they are working as a team. Walk into a television newsroom, and you see the reporter working with the assignment desk, producers and possibly others. If there is a lack of trust or respect at any level, it can impact the final product.

Working in a newsroom can take an emotional toll. The stories can be difficult to tell, but it is the job. Having a positive newsroom environment means understanding some days will be tougher than others, and supporting one another.

From RTDNA  here is an article about what news teams need from their managers.

What news teams wish managers did more

The organization then presented the other side, what managers wanted from the news team.

What news managers wish the staff did more

There are a lot of similarities in the articles, most importantly each wanted the other to be a team player.

I am currently teaching a TV News Producing class at Emerson College in Boston.  The key to doing well in that class is working as a team.