On March 28 at FGCU’s Cohen Center, four professional media panelists presented their view on recent trends in journalism and the media to about 20 FGCU journalism students. NPC Board member David Silverberg was the moderator, and Connie Kindsvater, NPC Scholarship Chairman, was the panel organizer.
Cary Barbor, is an NPC Board member and an editor for Gulfshore Business Magazine. Previously she has worked as a radio producer and continues to file stories for NPR’s “The Pulse.”
Chris Cifatte, is a WINK-TV news anchor and investigative reporter as well as a part-time instructor at FGCU (teaching courses in interviewing, marketing, news writing and public speaking).
Jigsha Desai, is the digital director at the Naples Daily News; she works with the newsroom and uses social media, video and different ways of storytelling.
Amy Tardif is WGCU’s FM station manager and news director. She oversees a staff of eight in news, production and the radio reading service.
Barbor said that “flexibility” is the best thing you can learn at this point. “Learn to write, learn to shoot video and edit video. Get some on-air experience. Learn how to learn. We may all be a one-man band, at some point. Try all of these things while you’re still in school. Writing is the best thing you can do.”
Cifatte said that people have access to so much information now. “Audiences see what happened, hear what happened. We represent them, the audience, the readers, the viewers—and they have the right to know what happened. It’s up to us to tell them what happened. Social media has changed things, but we learn what’s important to people.”
Desai said that she came to Naples four years ago, and found that the Naples Daily News is really active on Facebook and Twitter. “Today there are all kinds of platforms. Our goal is growing our digital audience: YouTube, Instagram, etc. We want to be relevant to people. Today it’s not ‘publish it and you’re done.’ We try to do some fun things that are entertaining, too. For the stories on Naplesnews.com, one reporter can do it all: writing, filming video, taking photos, editing. You are a one-man band.” She told the students to try to intern every year and try to build your portfolio.
Tardif said that it’s a difficult time to be a journalist today, but it is a challenging time, too. “Our traditional models don’t work well anymore. The way our audience finds and accesses news/media has changed. Our website doesn’t have time and space requirements. We need to be vigilant that we maintain journalistic integrity—fact-checking is more important than ever. We have to avoid perceived conflict of interest or favoritism and bias. Journalism organizations are in a unique position. We’re pushing to present content that attracts a more diverse audience today.”
In answering a question about journalism jobs, Desai said that there are about 180 journalists in Fort Myers and Naples. “It’s slow now, but hiring will gear up again in August. Internships are a great way to gain experience.” She said that more journalism jobs exist in West Palm Beach, Sarasota and Pensacola than in the Naples area. She mentioned two websites: Journalism.com and Mediabistro.com for job searches. “When applying for a job, be professional. After an interview, always send a thank-you note (preferred) or an email. And, follow up every week or two—call or email,” was her advice.
Barbor said that her magazine has a small staff and uses freelance writers.
Cifatte also pointed out that after a job interview, a thank-you note is better than an email.
Tardif said to make sure you qualify for what you’re applying for and realize it may take several months to get an offer.
In answering a question about fake news, Tardif said to always check your facts. Cifatte said, “Today the information comes in faster, but they are tips. You have to verify, fact-check everything. It’s not that more people are spreading fake news, it’s that there are fewer people spreading more fake news.” Desai said that the NDN is having workshops about being accurate and ethical—with tips, you must call and verify. Tardif added, “Make sure you identify yourself to the people you interview.”
Cifatte added, “Always follow your news/media organization’s Standards and Practices Manual. As far as Facebook is concerned—just don’t do it. Also, never sign a petition. Never make a donation to a political cause. Don’t write any op-eds. David Silverberg added, “Take off all things on your Facebook page or LinkedIn page that would not be professional.”
One student asked, “Where do we start?” Desai said, “If you start in a smaller market you won’t be covering politics, you’ll be covering local Easter egg hunts.” NPC member and attendee Joel Kessler said, “There is more pressure in larger markets; most journalists start and learn in smaller markets.”
Another student asked if any of the panelists ever had to drop a story because he/she couldn’t get public information. Desai answered, “You learn to write around it.”
One student said that he wanted to be a White House correspondent. Phil Jones, NPC member and attendee, said that he grew up on a farm in Indiana and he also wanted to be a White House correspondent. He did, but he said that he worked hard to get it. His suggestion: “Start writing! Intern someplace that will give you a writing opportunity.
“Writing/storytelling is very important.” Tardif added, “Because we’re broadcasters, we go online with feature stories, etc., but the writing comes first.” Jones added, “A good producer is always needed, and somebody needs to be fact-checking everything.”