On Friday morning, this writer sat with 94 other journalists in a room at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The CFR’s message to the convened scribes, talking heads, producers, and so on: we want to help you.
The problems faced in local markets are extensions of global issues. And the CFR, on issue after issue, has scholars with informed takes.
The occasion was the CFR’s first conference for local journalists, and the group selected was diverse. I met editors and writers from across the country, representing a healthy mix of legacy outlets and upstarts.
The conversations were useful and necessary for journalists necessarily siloed into beats (such as, oh IDK, the political industry in Florida, or in Utah, as was the case with one gentleman I met).
What do you do? What challenges do you face? What strategies do you marshal to keep your content engaging, to stave off audience attrition, advertiser attrition, and the industry forces that require faster, quicker, and more in a world that really needs deep dives?
Though the CFR is a non-partisan organization, there was a general sense that the Trump era and the “fake news” movement has compelled an essentially reactive energy, trying to paint the way back from the brink.
The discussions included panels about economic competitiveness, climate change, military affairs and national security, immigration policy, and countering media disinformation. And headlining the event with a state of the union speech: Fareed Zaharia.
The leit motif was that there are unique challenges in the current age toward the kind of policy decisions that lead to sustainability, specifically on the local level. Those challenges have been accelerated by politics that eschews smart policy for playing to the base in the era of the perpetual campaign.
We have seen, writ large, a disinvestment in infrastructure, both physical and technological. Our health care system is a lethal lottery, one where a mishap or an infection can lead to financial calamity. Sea levels rise, but mitigation strategies don’t quite keep up.
CFR convened journalists to expand their reach into certain markets, and in doing so illustrated that the problems faced in one area have analogues in another.
And one journalist noted to me that, perhaps, being a journalist in Florida is easier because of Sunshine Laws.
I didn’t offer, as I recall, ironic asides about the elasticity of said sunshine. Well, maybe one aside.
One expects that this conference will happen again. And one expects also an uptick in CFR citations from writers who might not have done so had they not spent a couple of days in the greatest city in the world.