S&P Global senior reporter Kuykendall talks journalism
Taylor Kuykendall was drawn to journalism as a result of his interests in writing and photography. After traveling and gaining experience at several local publications, Kuykendall found himself often writing about the energy sector.
He now covers the coal industry for S&P Global Market Intelligence, previously SNL Financial.
Q: If there’s one thing you could change or improve about journalism—in any area—what might that be and why?
TK: If I had a magic wand, I would raise starting salaries in the sector. I’ve seen too many good journalists — particularly at local organizations — leave the field because they couldn’t afford to stay in it. There are great jobs out there that allow journalists to thrive, but the quantity of higher-paying positions is far too low. This makes it difficult to retain journalists and creates a higher barrier of entry for talented journalists who lack the support that many need to start their careers.
Q: The profession of journalism feels more attacked today than in a long time, but also highly necessary. Do you feel that’s true, and if so, why?
TK: Absolutely. I could go a long time without hearing the term “fake news” levied at a legitimate news organization again, but the reality is that there has been much distrust of the media sown throughout the public. The journalism sector is far from the only one at fault, but I think we must bear the responsibility of fixing our reputation. The best way to do that is to produce excellent journalism.
Q: What do you think about the role of technology in journalism?
TK: It can be both helpful and harmful. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that there has never been a better time in history for journalists’ ability to source stories and distribute their work, although the pitfalls of the internet can be distracting. It is crucial to check in with yourself regularly around whether your use of these platforms contributes to or prevents you from meaningful work. I would point to Twitter as an example, as I’ve utilized it successfully to source leads and find an audience, but have also been sucked into the platform in ways that weren’t useful.
Q: Social media has upended the traditional media landscape. One of the great challenges it creates is authenticity and malevolent actors. How do think journalists and reporters should deal with the rising tide of misinformation?
TK: We need to continue to expand technology platforms that help people verify the legitimacy of a news outlet. While it’s an uphill climb, the best solution will come from working with the tech sector to identify verified news outlets and ensure they do their part to get that news in front of people.
Q: What learnings have made a tremendous difference in your career?
TK: Whether your beat is a local school board or the board of a Fortune 500 company, journalism is about people and is valuable to your reader. Our job is to figure out not only what is happening, but why it matters.
Q: What do you see as some of journalism’s biggest potential pitfalls? And what gives you hope for the future of journalism?
TK: I worry about those who need bigger numbers in readers and viewership resorting to cutting staff and salaries, or otherwise shooting themselves in the foot by not supporting the talented content makers that are needed to attract those numbers. I’m inspired by student journalists who are ready to go out and tackle the significant issues of the day despite the uncertainty and reasonable worry about the industry’s business model. I hope that we make room for and have more generations of journalists, and I hope that consumers will come around to appropriately value them.
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