Ole Pappy

Will newspapers, journalists survive the ‘Social Media’ era?

An article in a magazine called, “Minneota Educator,” a publication from the Minnesota Department of Education, I happened upon an article called, “Teaching in a ‘fake news’ world.”

It drew my interest because it’s the exact topic I’ve been addressing lately concerning the state of “Journalism and Newspapers,” in our society today.

The first paragraph said, “In Rachel Steil’s newspaper class at Stillwater High School, she teaches them about writing and editing, taking photos and doing layout.

But she also spends a lot of time on news literacy.” In the article Steil said, “Even if these kids aren’t going into journalism, I need them to be savvy consumers of media.” Steil and a colleague, Peter Schield are among others “navigating” the ever-expanding digital world that doesn’t always focus on truthfulness, said the article.

A 2016 study from Sanford University found middle and high school students have a hart time identifying sources of online information and distinguishing real news from fake, said the article. While students have discovered how to find sources for their research papers, “teachers have to develop strategies to help students sort fact from fiction online.”

Steil said in her newspaper class, “The first month we go through what is news. It’s more than just taking out your cell, snapping a photo and sharing a post,” she said.

“They are reading so much content every day. They are seeing a large volume of words. But they aren’t reading news,” she said. “They are writing down stuff on social media, which has opinion in it. It’s hard for them to even see that,” she added.

“The core of what we talk about is why journalism matters,” Steil said. “We spend a lot of time talking about plagiarism,” Schield said. “I tell them that most of you are really good kids and trustworthy, but you can unknowingly plagiarize and the consequences are still the same, whether you meant to do it or not.”

“Teaching students how to sift through Google search results to find credible sources has always been a struggle,” said Edina High school English Teacher Jackie Roehl. While the digital world can be difficult to navigate, there are also a lot of online tools available to help students work on becoming a better consumer of media.

Papers fading across the country ... but community papers still survive More than one-fifth of the nation’s local dailies and weeklies have closed shop in the past 15 years, according to a study done by the University of North Carolina. In addition, many others are so-called “ghost papers,” with drastically scaled-back staff and editorial content. In fact, more than five percent of U. S. counties have no paper at all. None of these “news deserts” are in Minnesota. “Midwesterners happen to be pretty heavy readers,” said Lisa Hills, president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association. “Launching a newspaper” in these times is seen as fool hardy as stores continuing to operate despite heated competition from internet sales.

Yet, in this environment Jana Peterson has started the Pine Knot News in Cloquet, MN. Peterson, a co-owner, made the plunged into the new edition afger the paper she previously worked for, the Pine Journal in Cloquet moved its operations to nearby Duluth.

Minnesota has lost 17 percent of its papers since 2003. In August, the Raymond-Prinsburg News put out its last issue. This was the third weekly to go out of business this year. Owners blamed the loss of revenue for reasons the newspapers folded. By-and-large, weeklies are not giving up. While revenues are generally down, the fact remains that weekly newspapers are still a vital source of information for their community. As long as they remain active and print the news, small-town newspapers have a chance to survive, according to Tim Franklin, publisher of the Moose Lake Star Gazette in northern Minnesota. “We know the readers because we’re friends with them,” Franklin said.

Some reports say the local papers appeal to community readers because they still display a, “Mayberry-like appeal to the population.” It still exciting to see the granddaughter’s photo on the sports pages or the grandson pitching in a baseball game. “If you provide readers with good copy, you’re going to keep them,” said Marshall Helmberger, publisher of the Timberjay in Northern Minnesota. What really helps your local editor know the newspaper is still wanted is when readers tell him how much they like the newspaper and how much it’s appreciated. Let’s hope the newspaper generation goes on for a long time. After all, there are a lot of people who read the paper and then wrap their fish in it — or line the bird cage.

LAUGH A LITTLE: BLONDE IN A LIBRARY A blonde walks into a library and asks the librarian, “Can I have a burger and fries?” The librarian replies, “Sorry, this is a library.” The blonde whispers, “Oh, sorry. May I have a burger and fries?”

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As my Ole Pappy used to say, “Sometimes you won’t know the true value of a moment — until it becomes a memory.” Ole Pappy valued every moment. He also had a storehouse of memories. Thanks Ole Pappy!

Byron Higgin

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