This is the first in a series of staff-produced “How We Work” columns. We’ll use these columns to share more about how Shasta Scout seeks to demonstrate its commitment to building democracy through journalism. We welcome your honest feedback as we continue to learn and grow.
A local police department issues a press release, which is restructured into a news story format by the local press and then published.
Is this news? Yes. Free public relations work for the local police? Perhaps.
But is the rewriting and sharing of press releases news journalism? At Shasta Scout we would argue, no. News journalism must be more than just sharing new information. In our current social media world, any public agency can do that, and many do. Follow them on Facebook, and you can learn the “news” as fast as any reporter.
News journalism is broader and deeper than this and requires a commitment to holding power accountable. It involves more than answering the basic questions like who, what, when, where, why, and how. News journalism also requires us to ask: what happened, what caused it to happen, and why does it matter? True news journalism requires a rigorous assessment of authoritative claims, a healthy skepticism of power, and the inclusion of marginalized voices whose lived experiences shed light on the realities of our social challenges.
At Shasta Scout, we aim to deliver news journalism, not just the news. We want to take that press release and ask at least some of the questions. We do so, not to be antagonistic or stoke controversy, but because we believe that strong investigative, accountability-based journalism builds a strong and healthy democracy.
We’re aiming for journalism that shares the news in a way that is not only fact-based but also adds layers of context and commentary. This requires us to examine the historical, societal and political forces and events that shape the news we share, and to feature diverse and representative voices as we share it. Context deepens the news while commentary broadens it. Both are essential to strong democracy-building journalism.
We’re just getting started. At Shasta Scout great news journalism is a goal we’re working towards, not our current every-story reality. The journey towards creating better local news journalism is a learning process with a steep growth curve. But we’re committed to it.
That’s why we’re welcoming Marc Dadigan on staff as Contributing Editor. The glimpses of great context and commentary already beginning to appear in Shasta Scout stories are largely due to his many months of behind-the-scenes contributions. Which is why we’re so proud now to welcome him in an official role.
Marc’s a trained journalist who’s both written and edited for news organizations for 15 years. He’s an experienced community organizer with a high value for listening and learning from the commentary of a diverse group of people in Shasta County. He’s also an academic with with a desire to deepen stories through context. All of which contributes to why he’s becoming our initial financial investment at Shasta Scout; the first way we’re committing to spending our fledgling funds.
Marc says he’s joining Shasta Scout because he’s committed to our mission and concerned about local journalism. “We need real, local news that isn’t driven by a national conglomerate’s bottom line,” Marc says. “At Shasta Scout I believe we can build a better local news source – one focused on justice and accountability rather than the uncritical devotion to “neutrality” which tends to most serve those in power.”
Marc began his career as a beat reporter for small daily newspapers, and he says he always will have a place in his heart for the daily grind. But, he explains, now is the right time to re-invent local journalism that addresses the problems of the old model, such as a reliance on exploitative police blotter coverage, reporters who don’t have the time or wherewithal to fully research their pieces, a preference for conflict-oriented narratives and publishers with close ties to local business leaders.
He says he’s also proud to join Shasta Scout because of what he sees as its grassroots nature. “We’re staffed by people who are rooted in our communities, accountable to our communities and who care deeply about our communities.” This combination, Marc says, “will inevitably lead to more meaningful and courageous journalism.”
You can read Marc’s bio here.
We’d love to hear from you. What can we do better? What questions for us do you have? How can we help you rebuild trust in local news? Email us – [email protected]