OLD Media News

Veteran journalist Clemetson talks about the importance of local news

June 25, 2021

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Lynette Clemetson

Lynette Clemetson is the director of Wallace House, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists at the University of Michigan.

Previously, she was at NPR. She has also worked at Pew Center on the States, The New York Times and Newsweek.

She talks with WEMU’s Lisa Barry about the importance of local news as the industry evolves. Below are a few excerpts from the talk:

Lisa Barry: So let’s talk a little bit more about local journalism, local news, which we heavily emphasize here on WEMU. And I feel and I’ve worked in radio my whole career, maybe you Linnett, who has also had an extensive journalism career, can comment on this. Have you seen local news? Sort of weird shrinking, but perhaps the emphasis on it?

Lynette Clemetson: Well, of course, it’s shrinking everywhere, right. As the financial models for sustaining journalism shrink in the print industry, not only is local journalism going away, but to the extent that it is surviving, a lot of local newspapers are being bought and run by hedge funds that are not concerned about the quality of the journalism. They’re concerned about turning a profit from the news, and that creates all kinds of compromising situations. And I think at the same time, we have places that see that threat to journalism springing up to actually reinforce the values of local journalism. Why we need it, right? Why we need it for functioning societies. Why we need it for community engagement, why we need it to keep our institutions accountable. So local public media is growing, but also what I see in my work, I’m noticing more and more small nonprofit newsrooms growing up with a specific focus on local journalism and with a specific focus on investigative and accountability journalism to really shine a light in places where that news ecosystem has gone dark. Right. We have, especially across the Midwest, places that are complete news deserts at this point. And while that’s scary, I think people are rushing in to try to save the day

Lisa Barry: You hit on so many different things. I like writing notes that I want to follow up on threats to journalism, the importance of financial support, and basically what you just dealt with by supporting WEMU. It’s your chance to help us not have the news desert in our community.

Lynette Clemetson: Yes, that’s it. It’s a chance to not have a news desert to make sure that the news that reporters are. Doing in your community reflects the values of your community with and supporting reporters who live in and understand your community, right? I mean, it’s important to have local journalism, but it’s also important to support the training of journalists who come from communities and understand the how the city council works, how the school board works, how the local institutions and businesses work in the community to really help make their communities stronger.

You can listen to the full conversation here.


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