Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fake 'news' is more than just stuff made up; it's also lazy journalism, showing the need for good reporting, especially rural, Moyers staffer writes

The rise of fake news has proven, that now more than ever, quality reporting is essential to keep people informed, especially in smaller communities, reports Kathy Kiely, a journalist of 40 years, for (Bill) Moyers & Co. "I am convinced that if anything good comes of this year, it will be the renewed interest it has prompted in the nuts and bolts of democracy and the things we do to preserve it," Kiely writes. "One of those is the free flow of information. Good information. News that informs, not just titillates."

"Fake news isn’t just the made-up kind you see on your Facebook feed (the new supermarket tabloid rack)," she writes. "Fake news is also 'breaking news' purveyed by TV stations that then feed you a breathless headline about some VIP (or candidate) doing or saying something meaninglessly incremental. Fake news is talking heads instead of issues. Fake news is bothsideism. 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."

That's where the power of the press and education, especially in rural communities, comes into play, Kiely writes. For example, Mississippi Today, founded by two former editors of USA Today (one of the places Kiely has worked), has a staff of 13, mostly recent college graduates, who cover the entire state. Also, the Pine Tree Watchdog, a publication of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, has increased news coverage in the state.

Others examples are the Daily Yonder and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, which both exclusively cover rural news, she writes. Al Cross, director of the institute, which publishes The Rural Blog, teaches a class at UK where students use what some call the “teaching hospital method” of journalism—"where carefully supervised reporters-in-training do actual work." The institute provides online news coverage for the small town of Midway, Ky. (Best Places map) and this year put together a 20-page print edition, with news of the local races for mayor and state legislature.

One of the obstacles is funding, she writes. Cross told her, “Nobody wants to give money for journalism unless they can compromise your independence. Everybody’s got an agenda." Naomi Schalit, co-publisher of the Pine Tree Watchdog, told Kiely, “It’s much easier to get subject-related funding. But then you can’t be as nimble as you need to be as newspeople.”

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