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One of my favorite subjects, and a question that I think continues to be critical in shaping the future of our community, is that of where and how people get their news and information.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of different relationships to that question, from being a casual media critic blogger to creating and curating various information sources myself to, more recently, working on it a bit from within the field of journalism.
Throughout that time I’ve been watching and appreciating the work of my guest in this podcast episode, Jason Truitt, who recently wrapped up his long stint at the Palladium-Item newspaper where he was most recently the Team Leader and Senior Reporter. Jason and I have talked about the work of news reporting in our area before, and I’m excited to have a chance for him to reflect on it further at this milestone.
(Full disclosure: I’ve recently worked with the Western Wayne News, a competitor to the Palladium-Item.)
I hope you enjoy the conversation. If you find it interesting or useful, please share!
The below transcript was generated with the use of automation and may contain errors or omissions.
Chris Hardie: You recently made a big change away from your time at the Palladium-Item and wanted to ask you about that. How long were you at the paper in your time there?
Jason Truitt: It was 22 years. This is what it ended up being, yes.
Chris: Wow, that’s amazing. How did you get into journalism and news originally for starting out?
Jason: I always knew I wanted to write. When I was in middle school, even I would write little fictional stories. I was really into sports back then. Well, I still am today, but I would write little short fictional stories about sports or whatever, and then when I got to Richmond High School, I decided to join the newspaper, The Register and just really loved it and knew immediately that that’s really what I wanted to do. Started making plans for what I wanted to go to college to study journalism and go from there. It was something I knew that I wanted to do from fairly early on.
Chris: What was it like at The Register at that time? I know papers change over time. What was it like at the school then?
Jason: We were putting out the paper on computers, but it was pasted up and everything, and the production of it as far as that aspect goes wasn’t done at the school or anything. We didn’t have a whole lot to do with the production other than being on old school Macs and writing our stories and that kind of thing and doing the layout from there. It was funny. It’s been 22 years, but I can’t tell you how much putting out a paper changed from my time at– Well, once I got to college, I started working for the Daily News at Ball State and was much more into the production process there.
Just how much putting out a paper changed in those 22 years, it’s just crazy. Going from printing out articles and pasting them up and then shooting those onto negatives, and then the negatives being burned on the plates and the plates being put up on the printing press too at the end. Basically, all of that being eliminated. In the end, pages would be printed directly to plate to go up on presses. Of course, none of that was happening here in Richmond anymore. All that was happening in other places. It was a lot that changed in that time period.
Chris: If you can think back some to what the Palladium-Item was like when you first joined, just everything from the building, the people, the role that it had in the community. What do you remember about your first time walking into that and figuring out what was going on?
Jason: I actually started working for the Palladium in my junior year or the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I did an internship at the Palladium. It was a requirement to get my degree at Ball State that we do an internship. That internship was a harbinger for my time to come at the Palladium because I spent a few weeks. It was longer than eight weeks, maybe a 12-week internship. I spent some time doing news.
I spent some time doing features, sometime doing sports, and then some time on the copy desk editing stories and doing page layout.
Like I said, that’s my career at the Palladium ended up covering pretty much all of that stuff in some way or another once I got hired full time. That building was full of people. Everywhere you looked, the newsroom had I think close to 30 people entered at the time. That was full-time employees that didn’t count, interns like myself or stringers that went out and covered high school sports on the weekends and that kind of thing. It was just completely different than where we are today.
Chris: Just so we can kind of preserve what 30 people did at that point. Can you remember some of the kinds of beats that were being covered then that belonged to a person that might have been combined later on?
Jason: Yes, just kind of rolling through what the newsroom looked like back then. We had a managing editor, we had an assistant managing editor. You had two different people at the top. You had a features department that was an editor and two reporters if I remember correctly. Sports was an editor and two reporters. I worked on the copy desk when I first started, there was six of us there, a news editor who was in charge of the copy desk and five copy editors.
We had a graphics editor, we had two photographers, a news editor, a city desk editor, which basically was over the new side of things, and assistant city editor, and five or six different reporters on that side, and those guys covered– see the various beats were city governments, cops, and courts, education, health. We had a health reporter and a business reporter. We had a Preble County reporter.
At one point after I’d been there for a little while, we added a Western Wayne reporter and those were just full-time people. We actually had correspondents that covered Union County, Cambridge City, Hagerstown, Centerville, and even a correspondent when I very first started that was doing just Northeastern school board stories. Basically, you name it, we had somebody covering it.
Chris: When I talked to your former colleague Bill Engle a few years ago on this site, I think he described a paper that employed over 200 people. I assume that once you start to figure in distribution and all of the newspaper delivery and everything that goes with that, does that sound right to you hundreds of people working to get the paper out?
Jason: Oh yes. I remember coming in. I’d work on the copy desk when I first started and at that time, the paper was an afternoon paper Monday through Friday, and then a morning paper on Saturday and Sunday. During the week, that meant getting started depending on what shift you were doing on the copy desk, whether you were laying out the front page or you’re doing sports, you would come in three, four o’clock in the morning to start your day.
I remember even at those times coming in and the back parking lot being full for that building there and the side parking lot was, of course, part of it was saved for customers, part of it was saved for the higher up folks. We’d get done with the paper that morning, you’d go home for lunch. We typically on the copy desk had advanced pages we needed to do, or in the early afternoon, before we were done for the day and you’d come back from lunch and good luck finding a parking place. That lot was full. We had several other lots in the blocks around the building that was owned by the Palladium at the time, and you wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed to find a spot in any of those lots either. There were a lot of folks there.
Chris: That’s amazing. As I recall, that’s also a time when the Sunday circulation, for example, I believe was in the multiple tens of thousands, maybe 20,000, 25,000. Just to think about the level of production that went into that from the reporting, editing, printing, and distribution, it was just quite an operation. You’re an award-winning reporter and you’ve covered quite a range of stories about this area. When you think back on some of those that you were a part of covering and publishing, do you have any that stand out to you as favorites that you were really glad to be a part of?
Jason: Well, there was some big things before I ended up being a reporter again. When I was on the copy desk, there are days that I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget 9/11 and that morning and what that was like. I was on the copy desk working that morning. There were big events like that. One of the shuttle explosions, I was working that particular day too, and I think I was even doing the front-page layout that day.
There’s some bigger events like that and then some bigger local events. I remember when Dennis Andrews resigned as mayor, that’s one that sticks in my head for whatever reason. When I moved over to reporting a few years ago, when I very first got in, of course, we were going through the whole process of getting to the point to take down the old hospital.
I spent a lot of time reporting on that, and I’ll never forget being able to go in when they did the walkthrough for the companies that were interested in doing that job during that demolition job. I got to go with them and walk through the buildings. That was just a surreal experience and one I’ll never forget too.
Chris: Really pieces of history that live on in lots of people’s memories. You mentioned 9/11 and the shuttle explosion. It’s a good reminder too, that there was a time where people’s consumption of national news would often happen through their subscription to a local paper like the Palladium-Item. Now it’s just so easy to think how the news we take in all the time through the internet, or phones, or whatever device. If you can just remind us, what was it like in terms of the mix of stories and what a typical front page might be covering in a given day when it comes to the national and local dynamic?
Jason: The front page, it changed through the years, the physical size of the front page changed and shrunk over the years. I remember probably when I first started or sometime around that time, the rule was, I think we had five stories out front was what we were shot for or what we were shooting for every day. Out of that mix, I think at least three of them were supposed to be local every day. That was part of the process every morning when we came in before we started laying out the pages was just to figure out what stories were going to go on the front page.
You had that. Then page three of the A section, the front section was also with a local page, and that was entirely local. That page went through a few different redesigns. The point there was a rail of briefs that went down the left side, and then three or four stories that made up the rest of the page.
I think at one point, we got rid of that briefs rail as the size of the page shrunk. I think we’re still looking for three, four, at most five stories on that page, but especially when I first started, that page was always local. There was no wire content on it whatsoever. As times changed, we did get to a point where we split some state stories on there from time to time, but the goal was to always have that page be nothing but local.
Then in those early days, then we had other local stories that were spread out throughout the A section as we had space, and then the rest of it was filled with state and then national and then world news was how you progressed through the A section. Of course, the A sections also had the opinion page in it. Of course, we had our local editorial on that page, a lot more letters to the editor back then, and actually, a decent number of local columnists back then too that was mixed in with the national folks.
Chris: You’ve mentioned a couple of national events that were tough ones. I wonder if there are other stories you remember where it was a difficult thing to cover or to be a part of reporting either in deciding whether to cover it or not or how you covered it. What’s a challenge that comes to mind about your time at the paper?
Jason: Oh, when you do the job of local journalism and you dig into topics that people would rather you not dig into or not talk about, or might not like the way you’re reporting a story. What I’m getting at is, Bill Engle and I worked together on some of the stories that he reported. One of the ones, a few years back, there was an overtime problem within the Fire Department and the Police Department. Bill put together this really nice package looking at the runaway over time, and why that was happening, and how did that compare to other cities our size and the state.
I worked with him to try to present some of that information in a little bit different way and develop what the different sidebars were going to be for that main piece. There were people, the police chief at the time was not a happy camper with us at all, did not agree with some of the points we were trying to make in the stories about why things were the way they were.
Another one I remember was after Richmond High School that was labeled a dropout factory. If you remember then, within a short period of time, they very quickly turned around their graduation rate. I worked with Brian Zimmerman who was the education reporter at the time to do a package looking at how exactly they managed to turn that rate around so quickly.
One of the things we found was that they had done a very good job of raising the graduation rate, but part of the reason why the graduation rate had risen was because they still had kids dropping out. They just weren’t being counted as dropouts because they were transferring to be homeschooled instead, and that didn’t count against the dropout rate. The superintendent at the time, Allen Bourff was not happy that we were doing that story, was not happy with us whatsoever.
It so happened that we were working on that story at the same time– if you remember former Senator Dick Lugar was in town to present them with an award for turning around the graduation rates so quickly. The timing of it was not appreciated from RCS’s end. Anytime you do a story like that, you’re going to catch blowback and it’s awkward, and it can lead to uncomfortable conversations.
I remember in that story, in particular, I was in the editor’s office with Brian Zimmerman and I believe the assistant managing editor at the time. We were all on the phone with Allen Bourff talking through that story, and why we were asking the questions we were asking, and he was very upset. In the end, even when you had those disagreements, more often than not, the sources for those stories are the people we’re reporting on.
A little bit of time would pass, they would understand they’ve got a job to do, we’ve got a job to do. We’re not always going to see eye to eye, but we can still have a respectful working relationship and we can go from there. It may be awkward in the moment, but usually, as time passed, things got better.
Chris: I just have to ask, had anyone come up to you and said, “Thank you for covering this hard topic or diving into this problem area, even though it was uncomfortable or difficult?” Have you had folks maybe after some time has passed coming to you or is that just unheard of in the business?
Jason: No, I don’t know. I’ve ever had anybody say thank you for something like that, no.
Chris: Well, that’s too bad.
You’ve lived through this shift from social media platforms being a place where people talked about the news that was in the paper to those platforms being places where people got their news and often complained about having to pay for a newspaper subscription. Some of this I think has been driven by companies like Facebook that enticed publishers to put articles and lots of reader engagement on their platform and then eventually, hit it away again, unless publishers were paying for ads.
Some of that’s been driven by the cultural devaluing of journalism and maybe some of it was just missteps by publishers and how they value their own content. I’m sure there were other forces at work, but I’m curious what trends you observed or how you experienced those shifts and maybe when you really started to notice some of those big changes taking hold in how people got their information.
Jason: The Great Recession really accelerated some trends that were already in place before that economic collapse happened. We were already starting to see the beginning of the downward spiral, but when the economy tanked, it really took off at that point in terms of the downward trajectory and all the other forces that were involved at the same time. It was around that time that we really started getting serious about what does our digital future look like, and what does that mean for us, and how can we shift resources from a print focus to a digital focus?
I remember correctly, I think I was already the online editor for the paper at the time. I was at the forefront of trying to figure out what that looked like for us. We were getting a lot of guidance, of course, from the parent company Gannett. We were trying to figure out what we were getting from them, how do we make that work for a small newspaper like us?
A lot of times those plans were more focused on your Indy Stars of the world, or maybe the mid-tier of papers below them, but they necessarily weren’t exactly feasible maybe for a small paper like us to try to pull off. Then we had to try to pick and choose out of all the different things they were wanting us to do, what could we actually do and how could we move resources around? We were constantly chasing that then from that point on.
The industry as a whole is still dealing with those questions and still trying to figure out how to make it all work and where the emphasis should be on print versus digital and all those kinds of things. You have all that going on. Then the last few years, everything became so political and so polarized that some of the things that had been seen as an asset for the paper for a long time like the national reporting and that world reporting suddenly became a thing that we were constantly being beat over the head for.
People would see bias within reporting that from my opinion, obviously, was not there and certainly, we at the Palladium didn’t have anything to do with it. These were stories coming from the Associated Press or from other Gannett newspapers, but they were being used to hammer why the Palladium-Item wasn’t worth subscribing to.
When you’re getting it from this digital transition and then this polarizing effect that was going on in the country in the last few years, it’s not been something, like I said, that really anybody in the industry has figured out, maybe other than The New York Times or The Washington Post. These bigger national brands have survived this a lot better than anybody else. For small papers like us, it has been just very difficult to try to chart those waters and figure out how to survive over the next few years.
Chris: There are experts and analysts who suggest that once newspapers as a whole had put some of their content, some of their articles online for free in the early days, the heyday of yay, the internet, we can get these articles out there, and people read them. Then once they were out there for free, walking that back in any subscription or revenue model was always going to be a tough thing.
Still today, we have people in the community who just insist that their access to news reporting should be free. That there’s no way to justify the cost of a newspaper subscription even at the rock bottom prices that the publishers in our area charge. Do you even try to have that conversation anymore with folks about paying for access to news reporting? If you do, how do you persuade people to invest in local news?
Jason: I would have those conversations with folks before I left the Palladium when the opportunity presented itself, to try to talk about– Just to be honest with people that if I get into a conversation with somebody and maybe talk about what they appreciate about paper, or even what more often than not, it was about how they wish the paper would get back to the things it used to do.
My point to them was, “Well, if you don’t subscribe, there is zero chance we’re ever going to get back to doing those things that you missed that you wish we would bring back because we just don’t have the resources to do that anymore. The few things that we still do, that you still enjoy, those will disappear as well,” and just try to get people to make that connection. I don’t know how successful I ever was with that.
Sometimes we would even get to just a personal level and be like, “Look, I really like my job, I’d really like to keep my job. I’d really like, if you subscribe, I get to keep my job. If you don’t, I don’t.” Try to get people to make that connection, even if beyond the corporate Gannett and beyond even the brand that is the Palladium-Item or whatever.
Just try to make it more personal and try to dig in and see what people either, whether you care about me or if you care about specific things that we do every day, you have to pay to keep those things around or they’re going to disappear at some point. It’s just a matter of time if folks aren’t willing to pay. You talked about some folks within the industry and analysts that thought that newspapers should never have given their stuff away for free, it’s called the original sin sometimes within the industry.
I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that thought process. I just think when you look at the way the internet works today, sure, there are things that we pay for. There are some subscription services and things like that, that we’re willing to pay for today. I think people see value in things like TV shows and streaming services and music and things like that, that they just don’t see news is adding value in the same way. I think they’ve become conditioned that the internet is full of information, and the vast, vast majority of that information is free.
If I want to know something, I should just be able to look it up and see it for free. Why should I have to pay to know something on the internet? That’s just the way it’s been for decades. I don’t think people see news any differently than any other piece of information that they can Google and lookup. I don’t think anybody has figured out a good way to break through that.
Chris: I suppose there’s some irony that some of the local reporting that might be the most important for people to consume, whether it’s a summary of a common council meeting or an update about the city budget, those are items that probably affect them directly in some way more than a lot of that free information does. Yet, it’s like asking people to eat broccoli. [chuckles] It’s the healthy part of the news diet that maybe people don’t want but when I go to the grocery store, I still pay for the broccoli and the cake or the sweets or whatever it might be.
Jason: Right. It’s unfortunate, we can obviously use technology being what it is, we could see in real-time every day what stories people are reading, what stories people weren’t. There would be days we would sit in the newsroom and look at those charts and just shake our heads when you see the stories that people wanted to read, people are willing to read, and then the stories that they weren’t. Often it was your gossipy salacious kind of stuff, the crime stories. Who is being sentenced? Who is being arrested?
The reality is those stories just weren’t going to affect most people in their daily lives. Then we would do this other story that was going to actually have an impact on them and they just didn’t care to read it. Now, they may go and Speak Out Richmond and complain about it, but they wouldn’t actually open up the article and read the article and understand what’s being done and why it’s being done.
All that is explained right there for you so that you can have a real conversation. If you can still have complaints, that’s fine, but at least you would have knowledgeable complaints about what’s going on and why the decisions are being made. People just would not read those stories, certainly not to any of the levels that they would read the other stuff.
Chris: The emotional distress and time that could have been saved by just reading the article…
Chris: It’s true in general. I guess the community has watched then in recent years as the Palladium-Item staff, size, and infrastructure was reduced even further. As you mentioned, functions being moved to other locations, positions consolidated, eliminated. The printing of the daily paper moved to Indianapolis, the presses shut down and I believe sold off, various editorial functions moved away, layouts, and buy outs. I think the building itself went up for sale.
At the same time, the news kept happening and the coverage marched on, and you were one of the last staff members who had held on through those changes. I can only imagine how challenging it was to watch an institution contract around you, saying goodbye to colleagues, what that meant for your work. What was that like for you?
Jason: Obviously, it was tough. As the years went on, you, unfortunately, become a little bit numb to it. It just happens over and over and over again. It becomes to the point where it’s just almost a part of life, it’s just a part of the job, that at some point, the next round of layoffs will come along, and somebody that I’m working with today isn’t going to be around when that happens.
We generally just tried to not think about that part of it and just come into work every single day with the thought process that we’re going to put out the best paper that we can put out that day, with the resources that we have. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to do everything we can do to inform the community and do our part. What comes tomorrow is out of our hands, especially in the last few years, once all of the management level positions were gone.
These last couple of years, it was two or three of us in the newsroom and we were just running things on our own. Some direction, now don’t get me wrong, we weren’t making all decisions ourselves, but the day-to-day, who’s going to cover what, and how are we going to approach this story or whatever was up to just those of us here in the newsroom in Richmond.
We just tried not to think about it, try not to think about what was going to come next, and just keep our noses to the grindstone and like I said, do the best job that we can do on any given day and get done that night. Hope that nothing popped up that we needed to jump right back at it that night.
You could get a little bit of sleep and then come back at it the next day and go for it again. When the weekend comes around, the same thing, hope that nothing breaks over the weekend that we have to go run to or there’s not a tornado on the East side of town or, what was that? The father’s day weekend. I guess it was one of the other things I had to cover and like I said, you just did the best that you could without trying to think too much about the bigger implications of things.
Chris: Yes, and very different to be sharing coverage with a team of 30 people in a newsroom versus a team of two or three and what that meant for your personal lives.
Jason: Yes, for sure.
Chris: What do you think is ahead for the community when it comes to how and where people get their information? I don’t know if you want to speculate about the future of the Pal-Item in particular, but do you feel hopeful for any kind of renaissance in local news reporting or other events that might change the trajectory that we’ve been on?
Interviewee: I don’t know. I thought about that a lot in the last couple of years, where this is all going to go and what’s going to happen. If the day comes at the Palladium-Item is not here anymore, there’s the Western Wayne News and the expansion they’ve had there. I wonder too though, how much of the growth in subscribers are there are just coming at the Palladium-Item’s expense, or are they actually being able to reach out to a new audience and bringing in?
That’s my concern is that there’s a generation, an older generation that is still locked into what goes on in the community in a way that my generation and younger, certainly my kids– I don’t know how much that generation is going to truly be civic-minded and really care about what goes on in their community, beyond what pops up in their Facebook feed, and what they might immediately react to that they see in a Facebook group.
As we talked about before with people not being interested in those city council stories or those county commissioner stories that are actually going to have a real impact on their lives. Like I said, they may see a headline and they may react to that headline, but they are unmotivated to click through and read the article itself, and truly understand how their community works. I’m just concerned about what that’s going to mean for Richmond and Wayne County moving forward in the future, and how we operate as a community, and everything else.
I guess I just don’t see those trends reversing themselves at this point. I just don’t see any signs that people or things are going to turn around and people are suddenly going to care about the news again, about local news again. I hope that’s not the case. I hope things do change, but it just seems like things are accelerating in the bad way versus signs of that things are going to turn around and go back to the way they were.
Chris: Yes, it feels like short of a national or maybe even a global effort to bring a focus on media literacy back into maybe the earliest stages of education and every part of civic life. Those trends don’t bode well.
We can’t have this conversation without referencing recent events. It feels like the insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol last week couldn’t be a better example of the way in which devaluing journalistic standards of reporting can result in real consequences. Whether it’s violence or disrupting democracy or just mobs of people thinking that they’re confronting some fabricated enemies of a demagogue while actual bad things are happening, bad actors are operating unchecked, and there are real crises that are unfolding around us. I wonder, you had left the Palladium-Item at that point, but what did you think about in a journalism context as you watched those events unfold last week?
Jason: You’re watching those people, from a journalist’s perspective, watching the way the media has been denigrated in recent years and the way people buy this notion of the media as the enemy of the people and everything else, and you’re like the concepts that people have in their head for how they think journalism works or how they think stories come to be– I know how it actually works. The editors at The New York Times are not sitting around trying to figure out how they can make Donald Trump look bad today. That’s not the way journalism works.
I don’t know how we fix that. Then what has concerned me too then on the local level is that you see some of that coming through here, and I think back of just things like the bike paths, right? The bike paths downtown and how the conversations around that went and everything else, and how there was all this disinformation going around about what they were, what they were meant to be, how they came to be and all that stuff.
I tried to do stories specifically to address those things and specifically to call them out and to provide people with the proper context for what was going on, and people just didn’t care. They had their preconceived notions for how things were, and that was all they wanted to listen to, and the only one to listen to people who were willing to or who were saying things that reinforced that already held gold view, and they completely dismissed anything that went contrary to it.
That concerns me for our community here and much larger across the state and across the country. What does that mean for us moving forward, and what’s the consequences of that going to be? This idea that we’re going to reunite and there’s going to be some unity again in Washington DC or across the country.
I’m not sure how we get there when people seem to want to live in their own bubbles, and they don’t want to move beyond that, or even see the other side as being real people who have their own strongly held convictions and their own beliefs about how the country should work and everything else.
Instead of having a dialogue about, well, you believe this, and I believe this, and why is that, why do we believe these two things and how can we understand each other’s position so we can figure out the best way to make this work. Instead, the conversation is all about how terrible one side is versus the other, and we don’t even talk about ourselves as humans anymore. That the language is being used, it’s really scary. I’m still not sure how we turn things around.
Chris: Well, and it feels connected to something you mentioned earlier about people being frustrated or upset if there was a narrative that was in conflict with their narrative about the dropout factory, reconciliation, or whatever. I certainly worry about the decline of investigative journalism, just the watchdog role of media.
It’s tempting to think that at a local level, we don’t have lots of waste fraud or abuse going on, but we know that elected officials and governments they’re not incentivized to be transparent about things that go wrong or money that maybe could have been used more wisely. You hear people in the community calling for wanting to hold elected officials accountable.
It’s just strange to me that at the same time, they’re okay watching media disappear that would have played that role and done that with a skeptical eye. People’s willingness to have a story that’s a little bit uncomfortable in front of them and really grapple with that, understand what it means, and be open to changing their mind about something, it feels like if we can’t do that as a community, then we’re in real trouble. Does that make sense?
Jason: Yes, definitely. Yes, for sure. Like I said, if we can’t have conversations around the issues that we face and how do we move forward and everything else, because everybody has dug into my side good, your side bad, and I’m not even going to listen to you, instead, I’m just going to call you names. Then what are we doing here? How does any of this work moving forward?
I don’t know, and I’m not sure how we break through any of that given the way media is structured in this day and age where if if you have a particular worldview, you can certainly consume all the media that you want from that particular worldview. You don’t have to bother yourself with the other side whatsoever, and you can just live in that bubble. Then that makes it very tough then to break through that and to have those real conversations that we need to have about the issues that face us.
Chris: After 22 years of living that life, what’s ahead for you? What are you excited about now?
Jason: Moving to Reid Health and being the media relations specialist there now, it’s very interesting to see things on the other side of things and to see things from a PR perspective, and that kind of thing. One of the things that attracted me to going to Reid and making the switch was, it would allow me to one, stay here in the community. Obviously, I’m born and raised here. My wife is born and raised here. Our families are here for the most part and we didn’t want to ever be in a situation where we’d have to potentially leave the community, but it allows me to continue to be involved in the community in a way too.
That’s what excites me is that I get to continue to be here and try to find new ways that I can be involved that maybe I couldn’t be before because of the nature of being a journalist. You have to be careful about your relationships with sources and things like that. Now I don’t have those restraints on me, so I can look for opportunities that I can be involved in the community in ways that I just couldn’t be before. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
Chris: I can only imagine as much as health pandemic means really hard things for a lot of people, it’s got to be a really interesting time to be working in communications and healthcare. How has that been?
Jason: It’s funny because, in a lot of ways, my job hasn’t changed that much. In that, I was reporting about COVID before I left the Palladium and I’m still writing about COVID. That’s pretty much all we or I shouldn’t say that’s all we talk about. Most of the releases that I’ve put out in my first few weeks at Reid have been about COVID, so that much, that really hasn’t changed as far as that goes, which is just weird. It’s seeing things from the other side of, like I said, to know what’s going on in a way that obviously I never knew before.
Anytime you’re coming in at a story as a journalist, you’re trying to think of all the questions that need to be asked, and you’re trying to think of all the information that needs to be shared with the public, that you can think of, but you never know things as well as the sources that you’re talking to. You never know the subject matter as well as they do. I would always as a journalist have this concern that what were the questions that I should have asked?
Sometimes you put out a story, and you see people start to react to it on social media or whatever, and somebody will ask a very good question. It’s like, “Oh, yes, I should have asked that question,” and make a note so that next time I do a story, I try to get that question answered. It’s interesting from this side of it than to have more of that institutional knowledge, which I have to see, I’m still building up at this point. To come at it from that angle and just figure out, okay, so what information does need to be shared with the public?
What information can we share with the public at this point? What are we still working on? Try to make sure that we’re getting all the information out that needs to be out, instead of from a journalism perspective, I’m trying to guess at what information might be available. Now, I have it all at my fingertips and it’s trying to figure out what’s the best way to share that? What’s the best way to communicate that with folks, so that they can understand what’s going on and what they need to do and, and those kinds of things.
Chris: The stakes have never been higher in lots of ways.
Chris: Jason, I think I join a lot of people and thanking you for your service to the community as a member of the news media, and as someone who clearly worked really hard to get the stories right for the benefit of readers, so thank you for that. I wish you all the best in the next phases of your career.
Jason: Thanks so much, Chris.
As a former broadcast news reporter/anchor of 25+ years (1977-2000) I can relate to lots of Jason’s comments & views. For instance, it was a common & ongoing question in the various newsrooms in which I worked & directed–should we focus on what the public wants to hear about, or what they need to know? So, this isn’t a recent quandary, but excelerated by cultural changes. Yes, the introduction of social media & “the web” & cell phones are among those changes I’m referencing, but there’s more to it. People/consumer’s pace of life have changed in general to where they don’t have the time, interest or energy to contribute or participate in their community. Re: Attending a city council or town board meeting and understanding how govt works or what’s being planned and how-is of no interest (unless it is controversial and affects me & my backyard). Residents don’t have time to volunteer for a cause or to help a non-profit. They don’t join community organizations or clubs anymore. Etc. They don’t have the time, or desire to make the time, to read a newspaper, or anything longer than a few sentences even online. in other words: this isn’t your father’s or grandmother’s culture anymore.
As for the Pal-Item, I hope it doesn’t cease to exist. (Isn’t it Wayne County’s oldest business and one of the longest established papers in Indiana?) But, I see decisions and changes which signal, that could be what Gannett is leading to. IMO, Gannett’s purchase of the P.I. was the beginning of P.I. ‘s decline-it became a little fish in a big pond. I see small town papers adapting and surviving, it seems, in Connersville, Winchester, Cambridge City and more. They are connected to the locals, serve the locals and subscribed by them. While I don’t know their financials, they live-on and some are thriving.
Yes, journalism/news media has taken some big hits with cultural consumer changes, political polarization and social media/web births. But, the industry will continue. How it will be excercised, who will be involved, and how it will be received are the questions to be resolved by each in the news biz.