Having been a part of the media landscape now for something close to the past 15 years, I’ve watched with sadness the increasingly fast erosion of public trust in accredited outlets.
The conversation pains me because I know there are a great many talented and dedicated people who have made gathering and disseminating news their lives, and they have been swept into the “media sucks”/”fake news” swell.
But, I also don’t disregard the base reasons for why public trust has diminished so much during my professional time. As a consumer, I get it. Bait-and-switch headlines, opinions presented as facts, story lines built around viewer and reader demographics, advertorials presented as unbiased content, native advertising, content marketing, etc. I’ve been a part of all of those conversations in some fashion. (And though I agree with the public’s angst, as a marketer, I believe in many of those concepts because they work…which presents sort of a chicken-and-egg something best suited for another blog sometime.)
Much of what is produced today is “I’ll do anything for a click” garbage (a Kansas City sports radio station fell victim to the click sickness this week) that wouldn’t have received a passing grade in my media classes at Washburn University. Where they may have been useful once, I now abhor any conversation that begins with hyperbole headlines or “did you see the top 5 reasons that…”
I had very nearly given up hope that the media industry even gave a damn anymore, resigned to its untrustworthy fate, and I had become even less enthused about citizen journalism, which spiked a few years ago and has since returned to its fringe roots. (It turns out this gathering information and forming consistent, coherent copy is harder than it looks, eh citizen?)
But just when things started happening in the past 12 months. Some examples:
- Roger Ailes and Fox News were taken to task for improprieties that numbered, I don’t know, somewhere around Bill O’Reilly’s old salary.
- The Washington Post and New York Times have been spoon-fed so much content from Washington, D.C., that they finally, FINALLY, snapped out of their we-work-for-clicks comas and remembered just how valuable good, original, reporting is – both to the outlet and the general public. (And, God, has it been a joy to watch the two compete since last fall!)
- And, my personal favorite, the social media giants in this world, led by Facebook, grew up because they had to (thanks, 2016 presidential election!). They decided they do have a responsibility in shepherding content, weeding out intentionally harmful or deceitful crap. But, they went a step farther than that and are backing what I hope is a long-term initiative – the Facebook Journalism Project.
From this project came a spotlight feature this week that helped reinvigorate my belief that there is still a lot of good journalism left to be done in this world – and it is being done with social platforms, digital technology, and some other things that many old-guard institutions swore were the death of journalism.
No, old guard, it is being done, and done well, by brands like Brut (which is just six months old) because they believe in two very simple philosophies: 1) deliver your media product where consumers are (i.e. digitally), and deliver it using those platforms’ rules; and 2) well, I’ll let Brut CEO Guillaume Lacroix explain:
“Today, people don’t care where the news comes from, as long as it is accurate, makes sense, and is interesting,” he said.
Sing it to me, Guillaume.
And his company is already becoming one of the largest outlets in France despite its 12-15 person staff using little more than an iPhone 7, some graphics, and Facebook Live.
It isn’t that there is a lot to learn. Brut’s principles aren’t revolutionary. They just remember what the public really wants – and that’s to be treated as intelligent communities who value content they can trust.
It is an example like this that gives me a renewed great hope for the future of journalism and the media industry, however it evolves.