IFLA World Library and Information Congress, which this year is held in Columbus, Ohio, USA and I will be liveblogging a few sessions, wifi permitting. The first plenary is from Carol Luper on Current and future of media communications. Carol Luper is a veteran Columbus-based news reporter (there is a video here). My photo shows her (right) with the session chair Maria Carme Torras.
She started by welcoming us to the USA and Columbus. She has worked in radio and TV for about 40 years, retiring 3 years ago (but still in touch). She reflected on how news news reporting has changed. When she started out, grammar, complete sentences and so forth were important: now it is unformal, and influenced by text chat. When she started there were three local TV networks, and three local radio stations. There wasn't the same prominence of sponsorhip, and radios had more local news. Now the TV news is advertiser-driven. Then, the reporter and cameraman would gather information, and she would review the material and put together the story for broadcast. She was able to choose who to feature on her news show.
Now there are "one man bands" - people who do the lot, and may be broadcasting direct from their phones, as well as using citizens' own phone videos. No longer does the reporter have to be on the scene, if there is a citizen on the spot with a phone broadcasting. "It's not professional but it's what people want because it's what's happening now".
Luper talked about how now more people are using social media for news, than conventional news stories. She held up the local paper and noted how it had shrunk over time. When she sits down to read the paper in the morning she has actually seen a lot of it already. She talked about how the role of the library has expanded, including a drive-by service at the Columbus public library.
She finished with questions: With so many sources of news are we better informed today? Do we look more deeply before making judgements? How do we decide who to believe? Do we believe the news anchors and reporters? Do we think they are balanced? Do we just look for our own views in the newspapers?
There was an interesting discussion after this, with thoughtful questions and answers. Just to pick out some of this: One of the audience asked her "If you could ask Donald Trump one question, what would it be?" and her answer was "Do YOU believe what you say?". Another question was, how can librarians get as much media coverage as Donald Trump. She gave a plug to the person who does media coverage of Columbus Metropolitan libraries, who was able to get regular coverage. She pointed out how he has good relationships with the media, building up connections, and is able to bring in a news hook (linking to local or seasonal events, human interest etc.) You have to be able to grab first of all the attention of the newsperson and then of the public.
Another questioner asked whether the abolition of the fairness doctrine had affected the news adversely, and whether the issue of slanted reporting was a problem worldwide. Luper did think it was, although she pointed again to the way in which people tended to prefer media that reflected their own views. She said in response to another question that it was difficult to get people to broaden their outlook if they felt very comfortable with their current view on life. This is a difficult problem with no easy solution!
One service that was mentioned, that was against the trend of advertiser-driven news, was C-Span, which covers political and congressional matters in depth.