A Changing News Landscape and The Paper to Tackle It
As the local alternative news-media, one of our goals is to find the stories missed elsewhere, so we’re going even one step beyond that with this annual reflection on the stories we wished we had covered this last year. We believe this is an important part of our growing commitment to you, our reader, to be transparent and reflective, critical components in the long-important and faster evolving nature of journalism.
When The Reader started, we were one of a small group of local media able to reach a large audience thanks to industrial printing presses or broadcast licenses. Collectively, one of our most important roles was that of gatekeeper, reporting to find the stories we think you need to know and, by our coverage, setting the public record and deciding the general discourse.
The internet, of course, blew that up. The challenge today for local media is to move beyond gatekeeper to moderator, even referee, of the record and its discourse. We aim to grow our reporting and storytelling, we’ve significantly increased our news resources this year, but also need to elevate new, diverse voices. News is no longer strictly the domain of journalists, which leads us to what wished we’d covered — and that’s you.
We launched our Community Voices section in the summer of 2020, as we all took a harder look at equity, with a collection of essays from new leaders. We’ve had more Voices since, but in the meantime, every minute of every day, news has been breaking and voices have struggled to be raised across our community, on every platform available. A lot of this is the raging river of content in our cyber-networked bubbles of social media, propelled by more sophisticated advertising and revenue demands.
Average folks have broken some of our biggest stories, especially about police misconduct, but they also know there’s a lot more going on than just the news they get from media, especially all the stories of mutual aid, people helping people to figure things out and to get through some challenging times — the good stories that seem in such short reply compared to all the stories that drive anger and outrage.
With our editorial partners First Sky Omaha and others, we launched 2021 with a half day Citizens Journalism training. building well beyond that with actual funding is a high priority this year and we have an epic opportunity. Out of 100 applicants in a national search, we were selected to partner with City bureau to bring the foremost community journalism program in the country, Documenters, here. Documenters hires and trains community members to cover the most important under-covered government meetings, organizing the key information and sharing what happens in the room as issues are being discussed and votes made.
Together we can build the news, not just break it.
We Face an Existential Threat. The Reader Should Cover It.
One story. In 2021, that’s all we wrote about climate change –– an existential threat. As Omaha (finally) develops a climate action plan, The Reader should hold local officials accountable and keep the community apprised of how we’re fighting the global crisis on a local level. Let’s help save the planet. Literally.
— Leah Cates, Editorial & Membership Associate and Writer
Less Scattershot, More Focus
At The Reader we try to shine a light on inequities, but unless we commit to giving them the time, attention and thought they deserve, we’re always going to come up short. In 2022 we’re focusing on issues like housing, criminal justice and education through our new series “(DIS)Invested” to put racism and social inequity under the microscope it deserves.
— Chris Bowling, lead reporter
Understanding Critical Race Theory
Although The Reader’s articles deal with aspects of Critical Race Theory, I would have liked to see it tackle the actual definition of CRT. At the same time we are seeking what CRT is, we are being told what it is by people who don’t know, but who oppose it anyway.
— Paul B. Allen IV, Founding Director, 1st Sky News
The Reader should expand coverage of local environmental issues beyond just an obligatory Earth Day story. Omaha’s recycling program, electric vehicles, composting, chemical use, garbage dumping, alternatives to the traditional lawn — people care passionately about these topics, which tendril into community liveability and health. How about a monthly column with practical, educational information?
— Lynn Sanchez, Director of Creative Services
Latino Community Issues
We weren’t able to cover everything in journalism last year, but there is a point I wish I had focused on more: In the current thinking of the Latino community, how to deal with domestic violence and how to make our children dream, too.
— Karlha D. Velasquez Rivas, El Perico Associate Publisher
An Overloaded Immigration System
21,621. That’s how many pending cases there are in immigration court in Nebraska, according to TRAC Immigration, an online tool that tracks backlogged immigration court cases. In 2022, we will amplify individuals’ stories to illuminate how the backlogged immigration system impacts families in Nebraska.
— Bridget Fogarty, Report for America Corps Member
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