When my friend Austin sees posts of my latest columns, he almost always texts me with some sarcastic variation of “what kind of fake news are you writing about this month?” Austin’s sense of humor is one of his greatest assets; so, when he makes those sarcastic comments, I laugh them off and send back an eye-roll emoji.
Austin’s comments do not bother me, because I know he does not truly mean what he is saying. He does not buy into the “fake news” rhetoric or the notion that “media is the enemy of the people.” However, the same cannot be said for many people within our community.
When people repeatedly hear criticism of media from important figures such as our president, people will incorporate those beliefs as their own, and it will affect the way they view local media. That is the problem. The retaliation against major media outlets has nothing to do with our local media outlets. Misplacing anger with CNN on a local news station is not conducive to a well-informed society.
It is important to understand and recognize the different role local media plays and how crucial it is to our region. The role of local media consists of both function and emotion. Function, in the sense that the community is informed of what is happening and what could potentially affect daily life. Emotion, in the sense that people feel like they belong to the community and have things to take pride in.
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Through a variety of reporting styles, local media raises awareness, engages readers and enriches the communities it serves. However, local media does not exist to serve as public relations for the community, the government or businesses. It exists to inform and educate, whether that means highlighting success rates or reporting on investigative findings. It exists to strengthen the community by providing localized stories and information the public is interested in and ought to know.
Another important note is that local media works off limited resources. Most local media outlets are understaffed, and reporters are underpaid. Local media relies on information from community members and public records in order to provide localized stories.
Media is expected to provide information as soon as possible, but stories take time to develop. So, like in any profession, there is room for error. The more helpful the community is in providing information and assistance, the better and more accurate reporting will be.
Bismarck is lucky to have a newspaper like The Bismarck Tribune and broadcast outlets like KFYR and KX News. Their reporters care about our community, and they work hard to provide stories that inform and enrich residents. I cannot imagine what Bismarck-Mandan would be like without them.
It is important for local media to have your support, too. If you have valid criticism, questions or suggestions, email the reporter or the editor. Contact information can be found on the outlet websites or on social media. Share your resources, story ideas and information. Local media can carry out its role and be best with community members assisting it.
Katie Winbauer, a Bismarck native, is a law school student at the University of North Dakota. She serves as the president of the North Dakota Student Media Association and is an advocate for student press rights. Winbauer has been a local speaker for the March for Our Lives movement and also works closely with Invisible Innocence.