Media Matters

DKC has long worked with some of the most well-known and innovative media companies in the country – from the New York Daily News, the legendary tabloid, to WNYC, the most listened to public radio station in the country. We’ve handled historic magazines known for their writing like Esquire and Rolling Stone, more front-of-store publications with a knack for gossip and celebrity news, like Us Weekly, and the most influential industry trades like The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. In this new age of digital media, we were there with some early innovators in the ‘90s like, helped HuffingtonPost launch in 2005, and currently work with Yahoo!, which boasts the #1 online destinations in news, sports, business and entertainment.

It is a fascinating business and at the heart of what we do.

Recently however, our focus, like the industry itself, has taken a turn. This spring DKC worked with Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) on a report that addressed the differences between magazines published online vs. their print counterparts. Among the findings of the CJR review- which was covered in the New York Times, LA Times and by many media blogs- was that 59 percent of editors surveyed said there was either no copy editing whatsoever online (11 percent), or that copy editing is less rigorous than in the print edition. Basically, the industry is in flux- and there is a sense of one side not knowing what the other is dong and general confusion about what’s next.

Journalism- and media overall- is indeed in an upheaval. Media is thriving, and journalism, some tell us, is dying. A new research project from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 70 percent of Americans feel ”overwhelmed” by the amount of available news and information. At the same time, the report found that 72 percent of Americans feel that ”most news sources are biased in their coverage.” There are now cities – large and small around the country – that lack a daily newspaper. Reporters call us daily and ask about jobs or advice about changing professions. We’ve changed too in terms of how we get information out there and speak about our clients, creating digital campaigns, and using blogging and Twitter and all the other little pieces of online magic that DKC Connect, our digital arm, can develop to tell our clients’ stories.

Among the more interesting media projects with which we’ve been involved is the Local Journalism Initiative launched, with our help, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) earlier this year at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The Local Journalism Centers will form teams of multimedia journalists who will focus on issues of particular relevance to each region. Their in-depth reports will be presented regionally and nationally via digital platforms, community engagement programs and radio and television broadcasts. CPB will fund seven centers to start and then hopefully additional ones going forward.

As Pat Harrison, the president of CPB, said at the announcement:

”The Local Journalism Centers will enhance public media’s ability to meet the information needs of local communities at a time when access to high quality, original reporting is declining. Public media has long provided independent and in-depth coverage of local issues and public policy. The need for that coverage is even greater today, and we have a responsibility to ensure that journalism can continue to thrive and serve the needs of our democracy.”

Public media is one of country’s greatest treasures. We’re a bit biased because of our work with PBS and major stations, including WETA in Washington, WNET in New York and WGBH in Boston, among others, along with our work with Ken Burns and other documentarians.

When Congress created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and as such, the network of public media – radio and television – that we know today, it did so to ensure quality public affairs, cultural and educational programming.

One result of that decision, however, may help preserve independent, in-depth journalism. The Local Journalism Centers are hopefully just the first step of further investment into local journalism to help offset the contraction we’ve seen across the country.

As David Fanning, the founder and executive producer of Frontline, the award winning investigative journalism show on PBS, said at a recent gathering of public television stations in Austin, Texas, ”journalism is rooted in geography – it happens in a place. If you serve that idea, you will be rewarded. People give to public broadcasting because it is a civic trust. It’s unique.” He went on to note that this remarkable system, which remains an oasis of smart and calm programming, on television, radio and now online, is also in a position to help solve the crisis we see daily in American journalism.

There’s no one answer to the decline in journalism. There’s more information out there than ever, but it is harder and harder to determine what is true, biased or just noise. And there are too many communities that are left behind, a digital divide that is becoming more and more an information divide.

But part of the answer must be in what we can collectively agree is a critical component of our society – a robust and free media – and providing a home for the young and innovative people who are coming up with new ways to report and disseminate information. And part of it is just to talk more loudly about these issues so as a country we can have a national conversation about what ultimately is essential to our collective health.

At DKC, we’re happy to be part of this conversation.