For someone like me, a retired print journalist, the title of the Nov. 14 LWVOC Hot Topics program stung like a bee: “The Media – Guardians of Democracy or Enemy of the People?”
Print journalists and those who faithfully read them have been frightened, for some time, about the future awaiting newspapers. Will they even exist in 50 years?
Yes, there will still be news – but mostly delivered via internet sites, TV and radio.
Moderator Scott Maxwell, the Orlando Sentinel columnist who was the lone print journalist on the panel, said he is not optimistic about newspapers surviving. Furthermore, both he and panelist Scott Powers, a former Sentinel reporter who is how with Florida Politics (floridapolitics.com), said their children essentially don’t care about news even though their dads are in the business.
Powers, a journalist for 30-plus years, has seen first-hand “a pervasive distrust of media” at Trump rallies he has covered in Florida. He said what isn’t talked about is the warm-up speakers at the events. In Daytona Beach, “the invocation man called us devils and said we were going to hell.” And in Kissimmee, a speaker told the crowd of 5,000 to turn around and give what-for to the caged journalists in the back of the venue. Powers said he wondered if he should hide his press credentials as he walked back to his car after the rally.
All the speakers, including panel members Matthew Peddie of 90.7-WMFE and Ybeth Bruzual of Spectrum News 13, noted that the internet has changed everything in the news game: YouTube videos, memes, Twitter, Facebook, et al. are frequently sources of misinformation. Maxwell said, “know your source,” and Powers said, “we need a population that can tell the difference between credible sources and non-credible sources. We need to know how to combat the lies.”
On another front, the speakers had somewhat different takes on the White House revoking CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass. Peddie thought the doctored video of the Acosta-Trump confrontation was “bothersome” while Bruzual was disturbed by the disrespect for the office of the president. Maxwell said media people sometimes pick the wrong fights and “look whiny rather than noble.”
Let’s take some final advice from Scott Maxwell, who has an enormous following in print and online: Talking about how news followers need to be vigilant, he said, “If it seems too good to be true or too bad to be true, it probably isn’t true.”
Postscript: In the house Wednesday were two newly elected Florida House reps: House District 44’s Geraldine Thompson and House District 47’s Anna Eskamani. Both are League members.