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tv   Former Lawmakers on Regional News Reporting  CSPAN  August 4, 2019 1:44pm-2:56pm EDT

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our differences or to understand that we are all created equal. he is saying that some people are inherently defective or dangerous, reminiscent of something you might hear in the what youch but not would expect in the united states of america based on religion and sexual orientation and immigration status and the countries they come from calling those in africa that he would --e to have more let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. he is an open racist and is encouraging more racism in this country and this is incredibly dangerous for the united states of america right now. all of us have a responsibility to stand up and be counted. >> to former house lawmakers take part in a form on the future of regional political reporting and public trust in the media.
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this is an hour and 10 minutes. julie moos: thank you. welcome. on behalf of the national press club and the national press club journalism institute. we are so happy you are joining us tonight for this program. i am the executive director of the national press club journalism institute, where we are working to close the gap between journalism and civic engagement. tonight's program meets that mission head on. the most important journalism that happens in this city is done by regional reporters. should i say again? i really believe it. the most important journalism that happens in the city is done by regional reporters. [applause] julie: regional reporters are watching washington for america's hometowns, so the people of the united states can make informed decisions about their lives, and about their
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democracy. and this type of journalism and the self-government that it enables, is one of the most important reasons that we have a first amendment protection for freedom of the press. so, on this 30th anniversary of the regional reporters association, you're going to hear about the challenges reporters face. you already know what they are, shrinking resources, diminished public trust, and growing fake news, but you're also going to hear about the impact of regional reporting from some of the very best in the business on this panel, and in this room. and we're going to look ahead to the future of regional reporting. and as we look at the future of journalism, it will rest in the hands of people like tonight's moderator, tamar hallerman, who is a very valued member of the national press club, the atlanta
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thank you for the conversation we are about to have an think you for being here tonight. tamar hallerman: thank you, julie. and thanks all. thank you for coming, i am tamar hallerman from the atlanta journal-constitution. i am the president of the regional reporters association. rra is a professional developing -- development group for print, tv and radio reporters. we cover d.c. for organizations based outside the beltway. we formed 30 years ago on the idea that we could offer tips and pointers to each other without comprising competition. we also found that we could secure more interviewers -- interviews with high-profile newsmakers if we work together. and we have had successes in the last 30 years. as regional reporters, were facing the same challenges as every other partner in d.c., media access is tightening. the president regularly seeks to undermine our credibility. public trust in the media has been on the client.
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and doctored videos spreading up -- sprouting up online are not making our lives easier. but we regional reporters face unique challenges. craigslist, facebook, and free online news sites have taken massive bites out of the local news business. a lot of our parent comedies are -- companies are tightening their belts. many have closed or consolidated their washington bureaus, and laid-off well-connected reporters in the process. i would know. my newspaper had about two dozen reporters covering politics and policy in the washington bureau. with the sale that is expected to go through at the end of the year, i will soon be the sole cox reporter based in d.c. we all know the work that regional reporters do is vital ly important to democracy. no one else keeps tabs on state congressional delegations as we do, and the local impact of federal policy like we do. with a closing a small and medium-size newspapers across the country, i work is as -- our work is as essential as
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ever. that leads me to today and are -- and our great panel that we have. i want to look at how the landscape for regional reporting has changed since rra was created 30 years ago, and how we can rebuild trust and best inform our readers at a time when civil discourse seems to be cratering. on that note, i would like to introduce our panel. i have from the pew research center, mike barthel, whose work focuses on u.s. public opion of the news media, journalism and social media. we have jerry zremski, who serves as a washington bureau chief a buffalo news. he has produced amazing work lately. have two distinguished former members of congress who have been kind enough to join us and i hope they can give us candid views of what it's like to be covered by annoying reporters i cuss. -- reporters like us. we also have congressman jim
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moran, who is elected to congress and mayor of alexandra, virginia. now he is at the firm mcdermitt and emery. next to him we have former congressman ryan a. costello -- a republican who represented philadelphia and retired last year. he has his own communications firm. thank you so much for being here. i will keep an eye out in case anybody has questions. we do want this to be a conversation with the room. i will also save a robust amount of time at the end for questions and would like to hear about people's experiences being regional reporters, and how people have adapted in this new environment. jerry, i would like to start with you. you have been a regional reporter in d.c. since 1989. i was winning if you could paint a picture of us for how your job has changed over the years. i'm sure you're spending a lot less time with fax machine a lot
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more time on twitter. jerry zremski: yes things have changed. when i got here i covered bill paxton and i called him faxing paxton because i got some of the faxes. -- got so many faxes. the changes i think regional reporters face changes that are similar to what reporters face generally. first of all, we are filing all the time now. if something is breaking, i file it right away. or i tweeted right away. so i kinda feel like my job never ends now. yet at the same time, there certain kinds of coverage that i have pulled back from. when i got here i was part of a , two-person bureau. we try to cover everything. we had a member of congress who chaired a committee, we would try to go to all the hearings and cover those hearings. over time, we cut back - i am the only reporter now. and i'm tasked with doing mostly enterprise work, work that is going to end up on the front page of the paper or get a ton of hits online. one can ask, is this a good
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change or not a good change? i am uncertain. it would be great to still be able to be the newspaper of record in washington for buffalo , new york. at the same time, regional reporters can also get too much into the weeds. and not write the really good important impact stories about what is really happening for the readers and what the delegation is really doing. so the way regional reporting has changed for me is that i have gone much more into that direction, much more away from process stories. tamar hallerman: does social media maker job easier or harder? jerry zremski: it has made it both easier and harder. it is made it such that i have to be alert to social media, and i have to follow it all day long. and i have to use it when appropriate. so that has made it more
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complicated. like i said, i feel like i am never not working. the good thing about it is that i feel much more interconnected. a lot of reporters say, don't read the comments. well, i read the comments. believe it or not, i get stories from the comments. i will give you an example. a couple of weeks ago i did a story about the delays in the construction of a new veterans cemetery in western new york. there was this vague comment from a guy who said, i'm a veteran and i own a business. i wish the government would stop trying to help me. so i figured, i'm going to reach out to this guy. so i do. he tells me all about these rules that i did not know about, legislation congress passed in 2006 that required that the cemetery be built by a company owned by a veteran with a service-connected disability.
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well, they are having a hard time finding a company that qualifies. so i got a really good front-page story, only because of social media, only because i could interact with a reader that i would not otherwise have even heard from 30 years ago. tamar hallerman: so i want to hear from the two former congressman now. i'm interested because both of you served in local government before you made it to capitol hill. congressman costello, you are on the board of commissioners. in mr. moran, you were a mayor and on the city council. you both have regional reporters covering you for hometown audiences. you also have national reporters interested in you. i'm curious what that is like, particularly how your relationships with the regional press might have differed from some of those other reporters. >> it's an excellent question. one thing i want to lay out
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preliminarily, for as frustrating as it might be as a regional reporter to deal with the changes in the industry, i found it very frustrating as an elected official. because the rules of the game have changed. so, by that i mean the cultivation of a relationship with the reporter. i am looking to earn your trust that what i'm saying is actually true. i'm looking to earn your trust that what i'm working on is something that might be newsworthy. the generation of stories to feed for your consideration, so that over a period of years, your local electorate is reading your independently verified re-citation of what i'm doing to validate me as an elected official. someone who is working hard is
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really, i mean, that is the nutrition that a politician needs in order to withstand a wave, in a wave election year. and to engender goodwill in the community. soccer practice, kids in school, professional life. people do not pay attention to what we are doing, very often. and so, for decades, and up through my, i was in public service starting when i was 25, i'm 42 now. i was schooled in that era, and then twitter. 2015, 2016. where it really seems that the way to get your message out has changed. and, less people are buying a newspaper, or relying on regional reporters and in my case the philadelphia inquirer and the more local papers which have been bought up by one of the three or four hedge funds out there.
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it becomes a real challenge. and i would submit that because the rules of the game have changed, there are some elected officials who saw it coming. and i will get into this later because i do not talk too much at the inception of this. some politicians saw that coming and got in front of it with stuff that clicks, bait and stuff that creates sensationalism. and some who i would argue are better at doing what the constitution prescribes that they actually do, do not know what the new rules of the game are and they suffer. and i would argue that our democracy suffers as a consequence of the breakdown in elected officials' accountability by print media,
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consumption of print media by citizens in an elected officials' constituency. for as much as it is a business challenge for your industry, i think it is a real credibility challenge for elected officials to breakthrough to their constituency in a way, when you do not have citizens relying on the service that you provide is -- and a part of a business model, and frankly under the first amendment as this what it was contemplated that a free press would do an open society. tamar hallerman: congressman moran, you are in washington a very long time and social media came about in your last couple of years. did you find you are changing what you were talking to your constituents about, or what people wanted from you, the inquiries you're getting from your constituents, where they becoming more nationalized, as there were fewer regionals around to talk to?
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jim moran: yes. the problem with social media, and i do not mean this in the way in which it will be perceived, is that there is no way to regulate it. as a result, you do not know what you're getting. you do not know who is sending it. you do not know how representative it is. whether itven know really is a person. it could be a bot. and so, it is unreliable. it is untrustworthy. and i do not think it is particular informative. and invariably it is superficial. the tweets, the emails that you get now, they are overwhelmed with people who just have snarky comments to make. thoughtless for the most part.
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so it is not a substitution for anything. there was a time when people would write a letter to you, and it was really off-base, and we would send a form letter back. we regret to inform you that someone is using your name -- [laughter] sending misguided letters. if we find out who it is, we will refer them to the mental health institution. [laughter] but you cannot do that anymore. because it is just too much. i just do not find that social media, for the most part is
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terribly informative. i represent northern virginia which is part of the washington metro area. most people get the "washington post." in the communities, though, and fortunately these local papers are still surviving, we would still have local papers. the local papers serve an extraordinarily important purpose, particularly from the perspective of a politician for the post, and the post is better than most, frankly. so i did not single them out in any negative way. it a very good paper. that and the new york times are two of the best papers and as far as i'm concerned, two of the most reliable papers in the world. but it is tough to get space in the metro section unless there is a scandal. if there is a scandal or a
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very controversial policy issue, you'll get space. but if you are a well-run government doing the right thing, that is responsive, that is competent, that is taking issues as they come, deliberating on them and acting responsibly, you are never going to get your name mentioned. forget about it. their only hope is to only have a network of personal friends and go to every possible reception and every soccer game and so on. that is not a bad thing. but you're never going to get any press. and it makes you vulnerable, because when you do mess up, and everybody is human, people do not know all the good things that you have done. that is just a function of the fact that there are, what, 7 million people in the washington metro area. but in a community, there may be
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100,000 at most, a small fraction of that would ask to get the paper. unless you have a critical mass, you cannot even get advertising revenue. so the cohesiveness of community itself, and the motivation for elected representatives to work hard, to serve the people and get some amount of credit for doing so is lost. in some communities it may be gone forever. i do think that erodes the whole concept of detoqueville, that we are country built on local democracy. you have to have local coverage. tamar hallerman: i want to bring in mike because at pew you have done a lot of research into local, national, and regional journalism trends. you had a really cool thing
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by metropolitan area and see the local news ecosystem of different towns and you could see all of these news deserts everywhere. can you talk with me about some of the trends you have seen in local and regional news around the country. michael barthel: sure, and that tool is available at, if you want to punch in an area you can see the results. people can give their main source of news the local fox given station was named as the number one source in the bestie -- d.c. region. so they have capitalized on that and put it on buses. find -- the trend for newspapers over the last 30 years had been kind of a downward trend. ad revenue fallen by half. circulation fallen by half. newsroom staffing followed by half in the last 10 years. today more people get news from social media than from print.
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it has risen that much. that is not even taking into account websites and apps. taken together, online sources have started to rival tv as america's number one source of news. the good news for local news is that local news organizations are more highly trusted the -- than national news organizations. and much more highly trusted then social media. only 4% of americans say they have a lot of trust for social media. but those numbers highlight the challenges to a certain extent. because lots of people get news from social media but do not trust it. we ask folks what you like about getting news from social media and what we heard was convenience. people like that they can pick up their phone and opened up and there is a stream of news. there to sample from whenever they have a free moment. so newspapers are to a certain extent making the digital transition than some other
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sectors. their audiences about half-and-half digital versus their legacy products. for tv and radio it's more like 75/25. there still more dependent on broadcast. the internet is definitely coming up from behind. we have seen a decline in the number of regional reporters covering congress. that are coming from daily newspapers. the number from daily newspapers fell over a five-year period. we did see a price from what we -- a rise from what we called niche outlets, bloomberg or trade publications, as well as a slight rise in digital native news sites. having that correspondent seems to make a difference. where story was written by a regional correspondent, they are more likely to cover congress and quote from a member of
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congress. if that trend continues, that would have implications for the coverage folks are seeing back home. tamar hallerman: those trends you mentioned are reflective of the members we have in rra. 20 years ago, we had 230 members and now we are down to 65. we are still getting new people and that is wonderful. but i do want to talk a little bit about what this downward trend -- the repercussions of all of that. jerry, you have done amazing work digging into congressman collins and some of his stock trades that he was making that maybe were not so kosher. stories like that maybe would not be covered, but if you could talk a little bit about that. that i want to talk to the congressman as well about how, because of the decline of local news, how that has changed the way folks have interacted with you. even with fewer local news sources. so let's start with you, jerry, and go from there. jerry zremski: i do think that basically you have a situation
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where congress is a very complicated animal. a lot of things are happening in congress all the time. all of these members are out there raising money to get reelected. so, there is potential -- and i'm not one of those reporters who believes that people come here to congress to make money, or to make it for themselves, i really think there are a lot of very good public servants, but there are those who do things that are untoward. if there are not regional reporters covering them, i think that the odds of those untoward things been reported are probably much lower. so i do not think it is a good thing for democracy. i think that it's a good thing to have checks and balances in every way. i think an independent press that is well resourced can provide that kind of a check. i do not know where we'll go
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eventually. i wonder if there would be more scandal over time, simply because in some communities people are not watching the store. tamar hallerman: i want to talk to congressman costello briefly. when we were chatting, you mentioned how in your district you had five local newspapers. four out of five were bought by hedge fund. then the fifth just closed its doors. ryan costello: yes, delco times in delaware county, pennsylvania, times herald, curry county, daily local news in chester county, are all now owned by a hedge fund. the reading eagle, which i thought was going to make it is now been gobbled up by the same one. what you have is rather than each one of those papers leaning -- leading on the front page with their municipal news local , interest stories, weather, all of the typical stuff, now 80% of the stories in each one of those papers is identical to what is in the others.
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there is a little, maybe one local beat reporter doing news, but that is it. it's the same paper. growing up, i enjoyed the public service. i always wanted to do it. you learn about your local officials in that paper. you see the ones that move up the ladder and what they do and how they go about -- i do want to say how they go about manipulating the local paper-but making sure they're in the local paper. [laughter] there is an art to making sure you're in the local paper. if i know that you are covering the pretty puppy competition every year, i'm going to go to the pretty puppy competition. [laughter] if you're going to go to cover whatever, i'm going to go to that. it can drive a little bit of what your district work schedule is. one other point i want to make, i do not know if you or someone
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else but if you look in terms of , local governments that are in areas where there are news deserts tend to borrow more money. you start seeing these trends related to government behavior that are not necessarily good. or at least without that accountability, and not knowing why certain decisions are made, it just introduces more potential for wrongdoing, or the potential for wrongdoing to happen. which i think also needs to be mentioned. all five of them within the last 10 years, and a couple within the last two years. tamar hallerman: a question for you and congressman moran. you talked about social media but i wonder if you talk about a difference over time in the way your constituents were over -- were interacting with you, or the kinds of questions they care about given the decline in local news over the years? jim moran: it is part of an broader trend.
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politics has been nationalized. i spent most of my 24 years in congress on the appropriation committee. i guess i was parochial, but i was proud of that fact. it is one of the two prerogatives the constitution grants the legislative branch. we have obviously abdicated the responsibility to declare war. we do not want to do that. the other is the power of the purse. the reason why the congress had the power of the purse is so they could serve their individual communities as best they could. and recognize and represent the diversity of those communities. and they would know best what was most needed, whether it be schools or roads or bridges, or human infrastructure kinds of
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things. training programs and so on, whatever it be and then they would go and fight for it. and for the better part of 200 years, members were largely judged on how well they served the interests of their community. then, i really think it started to come in when newt came in and -- newt came in in 1994. there was a nationalization in 1994. there was a nationalization of politics in 1984. and then to show we were purer than caesar's wife we eliminated earmarks. the appropriations process was abdicated to the leadership. and president obama was as
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responsible as any of the republican presidents. he said any appropriation bill that has earmarking in it, i will veto. so he never got a regular appropriation bill in eight years. which sat in the government, we would have continual resolutions, we would kick the can down the road. then the leadership on both sides, the house-senate, republican, democratic, would get together. it would be about eight of them, and they would work out the spending bills. and there would be virtually nothing for individual members to write home about. to go home about. to cut ribbons. i remember being so stunned after the economic recession of 2008 when president obama put $980 billion stimulus into the economy. but he decided not to work with the congress and deciding how that should be spent.
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he went to the governors. it was a little surprising since two thirds of the governors were republican. the members got no credit for anything. and yet they knew best what was most important for their district. so that, combined with gerrymandering, where many elections are made up or determined by the primary process, elections are nationalized on cultural issues largely. so this divide has widened. the most liberal republican is more conservative than the most conservative democrat now. every year the gulf widens. it is relevant to these local newspapers. i guess if you cannot bring anything home now, it does not really matter if there is nobody to cover it anyway. [laughter] what is the point of it?
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but i think this all falls into the same trend, tamara, that we are nationalizing issues. has the economy becomes concentrated, more and more mergers and acquisitions and concentration of corporate wealth, concentration of personal wealth, and concentration of political issues at the national level, instead of what i think is a more proper role for at least the house of representatives to serve the interests of their individual district, and the cultural issues are irrelevant largely. most members spend their time serving their district and they were almost invulnerable as long as they worked hard for their district. now they can get defeated on one cultural issue if they're on the wrong side of it. tamar hallerman: congressman costello? ryan costello: i'll give you an example.
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how does that alter behavior? probably five months into president trump's term, he comes into the capital basement, house republican conference meeting, and we are getting whipped on some vote. i can't remember what it was. the freedom caucus was trying to do something. trump comes in and says what -- not terribly substantive, but we need to do this and if we don't get this done, i tell you what, i was got this twitter thing. i just go doom, doom, doom and it is like an explosion. what he was saying was he has twitter and if you do not get in line, he is going to tweet and it causes a big huge explosion. and if you're a republican, it does. now it does for everybody these days. at the time, that is a whole hell of a lot more compelling --
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not necessarily for me, but for many republicans and very republican districts that if you want to be held accountable, the president will hold you accountable. that is instantaneous. so tens of thousands of your voters in five minutes or an hour have been told where is my congressman on this. that, when you think about it, vis-a-vis a regional reporter, which probably comes out the next day in print publication with declining readership, if you ask, republicans to stand up to the president. what is it going to take for the republicans? who are the voters? where are they getting their information? who influences how they think? and is those who influence how they think perceptive enough to know how to push the right button? the flipside of that, was there
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a very competitive district health care debate. , all of you know this and it probably drives you as crazy as it drove me. there are more websites that pretend to be news sites that are just not new sites. but they look like it. the font. he read it and you are like -- i would read it and it's like, this is a joke. it's not accurate. a reader does not necessarily know facts from fiction. and the cottage industry of ideological left and ideological right news sites, which i call infotainment really, it's not hard news. and their ability to to influence readers who arguably want to be informed that seek to be informed without -- with the predispositions they already have is a really difficult thing to overcome. then you have folks calling the office or messaging you or writing emails that are really either some times they will attach the article and say, how
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dare you do this? and you want to say back that is i did not do that. that is what the new said. that is not the news. or they will use a lot of the same talking points. and what drives congressional attitudes and behaviors and responses is where their constituents are getting their news. tamar hallerman: with that in mind did you find that it even made sense to message on really local issues? or could you get more attention by just going on twitter? ryan costello: the question is whether you want attention. it is a multimedia -- a communications director this year and a house office is different than it was 10 years ago. different than four years ago to my last year. because i think, particularly twitter, has really taken off more so. reporters, all of you, you have to be on twitter. right? it is not the end-all be-all, but you have to be everywhere, right? you do need to do the good government. we got funding for this. you need to get the statements
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out on if you'd disagreed with the dol executive order they came. you have to do it all. you have to be everywhere on everything because your voters, particularly in a competitive district, you have to worry about the 500 that care about this and the 700 the care about that. if you have a really republican a really democratic district, these days it is defined by one thing. do support the president or don't you? are you for impeachment or aren't you? and why not? we have really simplified, i think to the detriment of a well-informed citizenry. we have really simplified how we go about measuring our members of congress. i think the pendulum will swing back but at the moment that is where i think we are. tamar hallerman: i'm going to open it up to questions in a few minutes. before i do that, one last question for the panel. i do not think -- we would not be here if we do not think this kind of work was important. the problem is all of our big bosses, none of the big fancy people who make millions of dollars have figured out how to make news profitable yet.
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assuming we are not going to get a whole bunch of resources to be able to get back to where we were, how do we adapt? how do we do smart work and rebuild trust, especially given the state of our public discourse right now? i want to start with mike. pew has done some research looking at what people want in their news. michael barthel: it is very practical stuff. they want news to be accurate. they want news to cover stories thoroughly. they do want the news to be kind of fair. they emphasize that. there's that one higher ethical consideration. a lot of it is they just want to provide information to people. -- information that is useful to you. we ask people what sort of local news topics are you interested in. weather, traffic, crime. government was about the middle. people do, to a certain extent, want news that is useful to their lives.
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sometimes they want news that is more positive. it is tough because a lot of the smaller local outlets are going away. mostly weekly paper so far. we are starting to see some daily papers fade as well. and we do see that local tv is still the number one source for people's local news in america. but those local tv markets are huge. so in philadelphia, people say tv. but out in allentown, at the fringes of the market print and online dominates. , local news is unevenly distributed in america. some folks have tried to step up and do digital native sites. but when you look at directories of digital only sites they are very concentrated on the coasts. they're not a ton in the middle of the country. or even in the midatlantic. there's a question of funding and economics there. we asked people, do you get
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local news from these digital only outlets? very few people said so. you much more commonly found citizen oriented stuff like next-door groups, facebook groups, newsletters, emails neighborhood groups, local , churches and pta. people are self organizing local news to a certain extent, which has always been part of local news and people talking to each other over the back fence. but they're so far do not seem to be a ton of outlets to replace what is being lost. tamar hallerman: jerry, anything you have seen working for you and your readers? jerry zremski: we all as reporters have had to balance what we think our readers need to know with what they think they would like to read. what struck me over time as i look at my stories and how they perform online, and we can do that now, a lot of times the stories you think might not resonate online because they are
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complicated if they're written . in a way that says this is how it is going to affect you. it really does resonate. for example one of my best read , stories the past month is about climate change and effects climate change would have on the great lakes. it was a panel discussion. i went to it and i asked questions. it turned into a really good, very well read story. i think as long as you are taking government and relating it to the public there will be an audience for that. i think it is also important not to make presumptions of your audience that degrades or disrespects them. i will give you a quick example. i did a story a couple of months ago. i thought everybody is going to read this. it is cute. this is a guy from buffalo who is the easter bunny at the white house. nobody read it. nobody cared. it was like my worst read story of the month. that is a lesson to me. sometimes you think that things
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are being dumbed down that people like that. not in my experience. in my experience, the really good meaty stories are written in a way that people can relate to them, they still work online, at least a the buffalo news. tamar hallerman: congressman, any thoughts on what we can do to improve civil discourse or anything like that? jim moran: it is getting worse. it starts at the top of this country. the standard that -- it is far worse than anything i could've ever imagined. there is no civil discourse. it is uncivil. but even the democrats, uncivil in their discourse because of the political environment. and ego and selfishness and so on.
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i think it takes leadership. it takes professionalism in various fields. we used to have, and i do not mean that we do not have very good television anchors. it used to be that there were people who set the standard. the president would set a standard. we would have three or four nightly newscasters would set a standard. they had a certain amount of gravitas. they would be balanced. you can trust them. i do not mean we do not have it now. there would be some opinion writers that you would consistently read to be informed, but also to shape your judgment. we had fewer flamethrowers. we had more people who kind of saw the broad issue and perhaps
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lent more respect to different sides. i think we have lost some of that. one of the things i worry about particularly, because i do believe that journalism is an integral element of community, of civil discourse, of recent debate, of competent government. it is foundational. i would love to find out what is happening in the good schools of journalism, whether this is a profession that brighten people -- bright young people want to get into. to follow your lead, you know. because it seems to me they look around and they think, hmmm, not much respect, not much opportunity, not much pay. maybe i will look at another profession.
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i do think that erodes the kind of larger community that most of us would like to think defines the united states. >> can i hop in on that? i also teach at the university of maryland as an adjunct. one interesting thing that is happened since trump is election is the opposite of what you might be thinking is happening. election is what you think might be happening. we have had a bump up of enrollment at the university of maryland. and they have had to hire more adjuncts to teach more classes. a certain number of young people have become very energized is the way i was reading about watergate in 1974. that is very interesting. now do they get jobs? i worry about that. i certainly do. but the ones i've taught in the last year have been very engaged and very excited about the profession. jim moran: that is terrific.
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i'm not about to say thank god for trump. but that is encouraging news. tamar hallerman: i'd like to open up her questions. we have a microphone going around in the back. it is identify you. that would be great. >> i'm a communications member of the national press club and a former journalist. i've enjoyed the perspective of the politicians. but i think there's another perspective not being considered. that is of the public relations and public affairs professionals. when we do grassroots -- represent clients that want to do grassroots throughout the nation, we have less local papers to do it. therefore, it is hard to justify them in doing that if they're not can be covered for their efforts. that becomes more consolidated and big cities. it is also more difficult as you know to then get good coverage
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in a large paper like the new york times watching post. -- times or washington post. i just wanted to bring that additional perspective to this issue to the panel. tamar hallerman: ok. >> hi, i write for the austin american statesman and contribute to texas monthly. i wanted to give an example that involves congressman moran. i i doubt that he remembers this. in an area of another branch of government that is the judiciary. there are many court cases that are extremely important. they're almost always generated from any of our regional areas. the big one, and i did get to cover bush v. gore. the big ones are covered but there are many critical cases that are not. i can give an example of an extremely local one at the risk of dating myself. when congressman moran was mayor
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, i interviewed him because there was a court case i was writing for the four star-telegram at the time. there was a case involving the city manager who had been the city manager of alexandria, who then became the city manager of fort worth. as it happened, this is way before that me too era. but i believe it was a sexual harassment type issue and discrimination case. and i'm pretty sure he won that case. after all. jim moran: he would not have won it today. it was part for the course. but he was a good city manager. you know. >> and he continued for many years in fort worth. his get to see again congressman. jim moran: great to see you and thank you. i had forgotten about that. >> can i just interject on that
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at one point. it made me think back and realize that back in the day when i had someone working with me in the bureau, i covered a lot of supreme court cases i covered supreme court cases sometimes like i cover bills in congress and how does this affect buffalo? that is something i have really cut back on, being the only person here. i feel bad because i think it is, you're right it is very important. you have to cut somewhere. that is one place where i have felt like i have to do it. tamar hallerman: any other questions? >> hi i'm with the salt lake tribune. i want to get to the point that may be positive. what is the future for regional reporting question is it online only? is there positive future that there, jerry?ut tamara? [laughter] >> that is not a good sign.
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jerry zremski: i don't think we know what the economic models going to be for local journalism. >> i think is going to depend on a lot of different factors in different areas. jerry zremski: frankly regional newspapers like mine are somewhat advantaged in that we have got enough people, we have professional sports teams. people subscribe, friendly, for frankly, for our sports coverage. smaller communities are the ones that are going to really suffer. yet there are places like watertown, new york. we have mark heller who covered for the watertown paper. it really is a company town where there is a military base. and mark had a ton of stuff to do here and there would still be a ton of work for a watertown reporter to do, but there is not that person anymore because of the economics. the economics will shake itself out somehow. i think regional reporting will survive. it will probably continue to shrink some. it may just end up being a major market thing unfortunately. tamar hallerman: i do not know
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if i have an answer either. i find my own insecurities, for my own job security, i am spending my time hyper local. what is the thing the a.p. or -- won't have or what is the wire not going to have? i'm going to do that unique story so i can prove to my bosses and corporate honchos that is still worth having some buddy here. >> there's a lot of very local media that is not making a ton of money. a lot of it as that the neighborhood level. when i was in seattle there was a capitol hill log. -- blog i read all the time. that operates in a smaller geographic level than the local paper. it is just the groups where people are posting. none of it is making money.
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it is getting out there but different standards. >> i saw a tweet today it said, today's the first of the month. choose your online articles wisely. [laughter] >> you know what i mean. because you get the 10 free ones. i chuckled, but at the same time, i believe i buy newspapers because i believe in it. but consumers are fickle. and it is fleeting. like some other piece of information is going to come along five minutes later. and the ability i think, the regional reporting network, to weave the national with a local in the way that only you can do, that is the sweet spot. we have national. people can find that information elsewhere. but that is the value proposition.
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the question is -- how do you sustain and create a moat around that business model so the sophisticated consumer cannot get away with getting it for free over and over and over again. tamar hallerman: something that makes me nervous as millennial as i find a lot of my friends hase tom has -- since trump been elected, they subscribe to the post and the times for the first time, which is great. that is really good. i do not see the same enthusiasm for local news. it has not been ingrained in them. maybe because their young and they're finally settling down in one city. that is something i try to tell people is please subscribe to the local paper. only 14% of adults have done so. we also have the question, how well do you think your local news is doing financially? about 70% said their local news is doing well financially. so that may not be an issue. there's a story about a local
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newspaper in michigan, the month before the closed printed a whole issue where the front page was blank. and they said this is what it will look like if you do not support the paper. that is something to be aware of. >> i would guess we are going to wind up with two variants, and this is not going to edify the discussion anymore. i'm trying to think of a -- of the positive things, but we need to be honest. one might be what was called the patch. it was very local, it was online. we had good reporters. they covered a lot of good stuff. but it was not a business model that was sustainable economically. but i think it might come back. because it makes sense. the other variant is just like ryan was talking about, hedge funds or whatever sorts of
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capital comes in, they buy them up. they create a monopoly. and they do it across the country. and then they operate somewhat like sinclair. that is not a sinclair camera there is it? [laughter] you bought so many stations that you have a core content of news. in sinclair's case, there is a political bent. you have a core content of news, then you have maybe 20% of the papers local. see could claim that his local -- that it is a local paper but , it is really just an iteration of the same stuff that they are paper, in every regional paper that they own. that is not a positive development. it seems to me from an economic standpoint, that may be one of the only things that is going to be economically sustainable to do it that way.
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tamar hallerman: we have another question. >> i'm a reporter with science magazine and used to be with the oakland tribune. i'm curious about why the digital only publications, you said seemed to thrive just on the coasts. can you connect the dots on that? and what we might learn from that? michael barthel: yes. i'm not quite sure. that is a good question. there a lot of cities on the coast that have very digital, digitally enabled folks. a lot of times the phrase is actually nonprofit online. it may be to a certain extent where the funding is going and where the funders are interested. but local news is great to study because everyplace has its own story. in philadelphia, the local news organization decides to become a nonprofit and try that business model. so that they are trying that as well.
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i'm not quite sure about that answer. if other folks know that would be great. jerry zremski: i think one factor may be the demographics of a particular area. buffalo has an older demographic so our circulation has held up better than it has in other places simply because older people are in the readership habit. that is going to change over time. that is not a model for the future. but that might have something to do, to explain why the coastal areas you have a lot of people churning in and out in the population changing. they are just different than the old rust belt cities. tamar hallerman: i'm going to try to give tommy what he wants which is always a good thing i think, and call on somebody in the room i know to be one of the very best regional reporters. leslie clark. [applause]
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tamar hallerman: i worked with leslie at mcclatchy. she has covered washington for the lexington herald leader, and the miami herald and more. i wanted to ask leslie to talk about what she sees working and what gives her hope for the future. leslie thanks, julie. :i think. ok. a lot of what i see is, tamara mentioned it, at mcclatchy we were proud of having regional reporters and were one of the biggest in d.c. we have a number of regional reporters. i work for kentucky now and am covering mitch mcconnell, which is a super fun and important beat. and a really important beat rate and a number of my colleagues are here.
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we try to get something different that not everyone is going to do. so we know what the story of the day is going to be, that is not what we're going to try to achieve. we are going to go and gives the -- give people what they cannot get anywhere else. mcclatchy sees a lot of hope in regional reporting. they have a compass project they are doing, people may have heard about it with google, going into three news deserts that do not have any news operations in them. i think the first is in youngstown ohio, which just lost its newspaper. and they're going to try something new and be brave and go in there and try to get readers, and tried to get people talking to them in reading them. a lot of what we do is also knowing your community. i think that is a really important thing like jerry knows buffalo. i knew miami really well when i reported for miami. i knew that always for regional
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reporter in the front of my mind was what would land on the front page. now that is like what will land on the homepage and stay there. they will keep the sticky stories that people will go back to. so you're always thinking what to people in the community want to read? now that i cover for lexington, mitch mcconnell, the nice thing about him, is that it is not just -- he is not of interest just to folks in lexington, kentucky, he is of interest to a national audience. so i think we get a lot from that. how we would change that into subscription? i'm not entirely sure on that. but i try to work well with the political reporters. and i focus on bourbon and horse racing and things the community cares about. i think if we try to be essential and write about things that, hopefully, people are interested in. tamar hallerman: i think we have time for one more.
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>> i am mark keller and was the washingtonnd was the correspondent for watertown for 14 years and overlapped a bit with jerry here in the press building. i wanted to tell a quick story and make an observation. one of the beauties of regional reporting is that you're tied back to your community. that is your focus. when watertown hired me i already work to the paper in the newsroom for three and a half years. they sat me down, my editor said, mark, if we were looking for somebody who really knows washington, we can find somebody in d.c. to do that. there are people we could hire for that but that is not what we are looking for. we are looking for somebody who knows the north country who knows people here, who has lived in the community, who understands the owner and publisher's quirks and that sort of thing.
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that was the beauty of it, so i came down here. as the regional. i don't care about the race for speaker of the house, i'm not going to write about that. i do care whether the local congressman is going to get the top spot on house armed services. that is a good story for us. and we will get it first. that is what regional reporting is all about. the observation i would make is that even though regional reporters, the ranks have been decimated, you go into the press galleries in the capital and they are more full of reporters that it any time since i started here in december of 1997. it is all people who are writing places like politico which didn't exist when i got there an outfit like that. the way it is being covered is different than what it used to be.
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these are great reporters and great at chasing things down and the focus is different. i would be curious about any observations maybe from people up on the stage or elsewhere about how coverage of d.c. has changed because of that. if i could -- i know we want to hear from everybody. but i will take a crack at that. there's no question but that the composition in the newsroom has changed. and a lot of them now are reporters as you said, energy and the environment. or they will be bag or industry. the subject matter industry oriented newsletters. and they're paid for by corporations who need to be on top of everything that is
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happening that could affect their bottom line. and that includes lobbyists. you know, there's now, i think politico has one devoted with what's happening just in the lobbying business. that -- that works because the -- the consumers, although there's not a high quantity, that's a high quality in terms of capacity to pay. and they pay big money for energy newsletters. if this affects their investments, they're willing to write big checks to find out they're at least as informed as their competitors. that's very different from the kind of coverage you used to have with individual numbers and how well they're serving their districts. this is how well they're serving the industry. what are they doing that's going to affect your bottom line? i think it's kind of a different paradigm for which they're viewing the work of the congress. >> and coupled with -- and it's a better question for the journalists but coupled with the palace intrigue, how do all us little mignons deal with what's happening at the white house? and how do we fit into that?
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and that drives fox and msn and all the others. we're the cog in the wheel for that broader nationalized narrative. that's what a lot of the reporters who chase you around. you can be good buddies with a lot of them because they need the quotes to fill up the article. but if that's not your thing, then you don't really have much reason as a member of congress to talk to the reporters in the press gallery except through regional, right? you're better off having your comms directer get the press releases back tax and taxing trying to hit the deadline for the next morning. yeah, voted for h.r.12 and here's my floor speech, you know? >> i find the palace intrigue stuff and feeling like the cog in the wheel -- a lot of the time unless any congressman is saying something upfront, so and
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so is a jerk. most of the time i find that our readers don't click on that kind of story of the day of here's what trump said and who's what our guys think of it. going off of what leslie said having essential staff that no one else had. when i read about georgia's water rights in front of the supreme court right now, those stories do really well because no one else is covering it. there's a silver lining in that. you want to have the last word, jerry? >> thanks. i'm struck how this conversation comes full circle. i thought a lot about what congressman moran had to say about ear marks. when i came to washington 30 years ago, i wrote about ear marks all the time. it was as if buffalo judged its number of congress by ear marks. now there are no ear marks. what's interesting is that i look at the numbers that i cover today and while there are exceptions, there are some that are similar to the ones i
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covered 30 years ago. i covered a guy named tom reid which i'm sure you know pretty well who would be the serve the district type of congressman but but without appropriations he's , take a different path. he's worked with a bunch of different other centrist numbers to really -- energize this group called the problem solvers caucus. i end up writing stories about the problem solvers caucus rather than appropriations because that's what he's doing. it goes into what you're saying about congress being nationalized. it's a perfect example of it. >> all right. maureen, i'll give you the final word. >> i want to encourage everyone to look at the upstairs in the press club we have the front , page. they were kicking and screaming in the national beat last year. i would show them the front page of the waco newspaper that says
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the local ranch owner [laughter] >> referring to george w. bush, which i love. >> i want to thank our panelists for taking the time to chat with us. i want to thank our crowd for coming out. they're a ton of current and former regional reporters including a bunch of former r.a. -- raa presidents. thank you for coming. for those who paid we have a reception upstairs and i would love to see you all. thank you. and thank you, julie. [applause] >> thank you to the panelists. thank you to andy who has been running around with my phone and helped make this program happen. thank you to the press club team that makes this experience so welcoming and comfortable. thank you to c-span for being here recording this and airing it. and before people leave for reception, i do want to talk for a minute about somebody who is not here. you may notice some of us wearing pins that say free austin tice. austin is the only american
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journalist who is being held abroad. he's been held in syria for 2,445 days. he was taken reporting for mcclatchy and "the washington post." the u.s. believes he's alive and is working very hard to bring him home. boston's family has been fighting for his freedom for seven years this month. we hope that you are too. we're starting a new campaign on austin's birthday which is august 11th. and you'll be able to learn meanwhile, you can see is photography in the lobby and learn more about him. thank you for supporting him. thank you, again, for supporting programs like this. and thank you all for being here. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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♪ [indistinct conversations]
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