In this episode, I interview Emmy Award-Winning Journalist Lynn Walsh. Lynn is assistant director of the Trusting News Project.
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Judy Oskam: 0:03
Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam, a professor in the School ofJournalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. Throughout my career is a television journalist, video producer, PR professional and educator, I've always been drawn to stories, stories about people and how they deal with change and embrace creativity. Hope you enjoy listening.
Judy Oskam: 0:30
On this episode, I talk with Lynn Walsh. She's an Emmy Award winning multimedia journalist and adjunct professor. She calls herself a digital explorer. Lynn Walsh is the assistant director for the Trusting News Project. She visited Texas State University as part of the 2019-2020 Common Experience. The Common Experience theme was truth. During our interview, we talked about the changing news media and the future of journalism. What is the trusting news project in, and what's the purpose?
Lynn Walsh: 1:04
Yes, our goal to trust a news project is to help rebuild trust between the public and journalist. And we do that by working directly with journalist in newsrooms to try to help them primarily do three things - explain their process, be more transparent about what we do as journalists explain decision making and how we do those things and then also engage with your audience and ask your audience for feedback. So just asking them, How are we doing? Do you trust us? What could we be doing? Better? Those kind of basic, simple questions, um, can actually really go a long way and building trust and building that relationship
Judy Oskam: 1:37
As a former journalist, are you kind of surprised there's a need for this organization?
Lynn Walsh: 1:41
You know, not really. So I actually I joined the Trusting News Project after I was served as the national president for the Society of Professional Journalists. And while I was doing that, I spoke to the public a lot, and I heard ah, lot of people that were very angry about journalism. They were very angry about kind of just the news that they were consuming and what they were seeing. And I would always give them, like, 15 minute phone call conversations like to kind of talk them, talk through with them like what's going on. And what I constantly realized is that most the time this anger was coming because they didn't understand how the process worked. So because they didn't understand it, they then made an assumption that generally was negative. They assumed that the reporter didn't contact this person for feedback. They assumed that this person just took information that someone d m them on Twitter and just posted it without fact checking or doing any of that. They just made all these assumptions that were negative. And when I found is when I talk to them and said, Okay, well here, actually, this probably how this worked. And I would kind of explain how journalism worked. They weren't mad anymore. They were like, Oh, I didn't know that. So that actually is one of the reasons why I joined the Trusting News Project and left the newsroom is because I was like, you know, this is needed. Just it's it's needed everywhere, and we need to do something about it before it's too late.
Judy Oskam: 2:57
I'm always telling the people that ask me about journalism and its future that here at the university, we're teaching the students the right way to do things, were teaching them to get multiple sources. So the teaching part I feel like the education element. Is there, what happens after that then?
Lynn Walsh: 3:15
Well, I think what can happen in some newsrooms is, it's the deadline pressure is just much crazier than it used to be. You're being asked to do a lot more things than you used to be, right? Um, the end, because of just kind of this 24 hour news cycle, right? It's not just that you're asking, asking to be do more than we used to, but you are now asked to do it more quickly and get it up faster and be the first. And I think a lot of that plays into some of these questions. Maybe some of this kind of the ethical journalism sometimes goes by the wayside a little easier or more quickly when it really shouldn't, and we should be holding ourselves to the same standard. So I think that is what happens a lot, I think, sometimes also, you know, I think how often engagement wasn't necessarily a part of the news gathering process before. We didn't really have an easy way to get feedback from our audience, right? It was always delayed, maybe months, weeks, days later. Now we can instantly get that, and so we should be involving them in the process. And I think that is new. And for some news organizations, it's taking longer to adapt to that kind of style of reporting an engagement than others.
Judy Oskam: 4:26
And social media, I think plays a role that
Lynn Walsh: 4:27
Totally Yeah. I mean, with social media, you can get feedback instantly on before you do a story. If you're if you're assigned a story, you can ask, Hey, who should I be talking to in the community? And we all know that newsrooms aren't as diverse as they should be. They don't necessarily reflect the community. So by doing that, you're actually involving, um, the community hopefully making your story better because you're able to be more representative of the community that you're serving. What
Judy Oskam: 4:53
What advice would you give a working journalism and I want to know what advise would you have for the audience embers to better, be better, more educated consumers?
Lynn Walsh: 5:02
Yeah, I think I mean, for journalists, the biggest thing is one like, you know, look, at how open and transparent is your organization and you might not be able to change that. But, you know, is it easy to contact you . is it easy for someone to report if they want to file a correction. You know, have you talked about and made public, like why you choose stories? What's your approach to crime coverage? I mean, all of these questions that people have, you know, how transparent is the organization that you're working for? You know, are they making these things publicly available is that people can read them, consume them and learn about them. And then, you know, what are you doing as a journalist yourself? You know, when you're sharing a story on Facebook or on Twitter instead of just re sharing the headline or a quote from it, talk about a decision you made or why the story was important. Why you were assigned the story in the first place, right? There's always a reason. We have so many stories that we have to cover every day. So why was that story so important that they put a reporter to it and talk about that? Explain that, explain why you decided to contact certain people, and then also, I would say, you know, don't be afraid to get into the comments on Facebook on Twitter and answer people who might be critical of the reporting. And try to get them to be specific about what they're complaining about. And it might make your reporting better because they could have just a good point that you weren't aware of because no one told you about that. Um, and then from a news consumers perspective, you know, the biggest things are, you know, where's your information coming from before you kind of make a decision about what it is if it's good, bad or, you know you agree with it or disagree with it, Like check first is it news or opinion. Um, who is the organization or the journalists reporting about it? Go to their About Us page. Try to find more information about the reporter. If you're reading something and it just seems like so outrageous or, like, kind of crazy. Do a Google search and see if there is other information out there about it. If there isn't or if all the information you're seeing is being linked back to each other, that's a big red flag I would say that that probably is not accurate information. And then thirdly, you know we need the public to be involved in the process, to make it successful. If you see information is incorrect if you have questions, if you want to complain about something that someone did because you think it is biased, contact the news organization. Reach out to them, have the conversation because we may not know everything that you know. We're only reporting on the information that we have at that at that time,
Judy Oskam: 7:27
And you're here at the university talking to students. What do you tell students about the future of journalism?
Lynn Walsh: 7:33
I think it's really exciting. I mean, I think there are so many different jobs and opportunities that you can have that might not be traditional, like just as a reporter or, you know, as a producer, whatever that might be or an editor. But there are so many opportunities in newsrooms and because of the skills and just the things that they know just kind of right off the bat, their engagement skills on social media, their ability to create stories on Instagram, to gather, you know, just everything that's happening around them makes that it's just such an added benefit that they can use in a storytelling perspective. You know something that I talked to students a lot about is like engagement journalism, these engagement roles in newsrooms. They know how to do this. It's something that just they've been doing and they don't even realize it. And that canbe a really, really important tool in the newsroom,
Judy Oskam: 8:20
And because of that shouldn't students to be concerned about their own brand?
Lynn Walsh: 8:24
So something that it's funny when I feel like when I talk to students or, you know, younger journalists, they totally get this versus some of the older journalists more experience that I've worked with, they don't understand kind of the branding as well. But I mean your brand is almost It's just important, if not more important, than the brand of the organizations that you work with, most likely nowadays. You're not gonna be in a newsroom, you know, your whole entire career, you're gonna bounce around to a couple different places. So what is your brand? What do you represent? What do people think of you? Do they trust you? They can absolutely trust you and maybe not have full trust in an organization, But that's okay because they trust you as the journalist because you're engaging with them. You're asking them for feedback on and you're giving them accurate information.
Judy Oskam: 9:08
Thank you for listening to Stories of Change and Creativity. Check out the show notes for more information about this episode and please subscribe and share this podcast with a friend. If you have a story to tell or know someone who does, please let me know. I'm Judy Oskam. Thanks for listening.