FCC testimony on media ownership: Kathleen Warren

Hi, my name is Kathleen Warren. I was a working reporter for more than 20 years. I am here because of my outrage and my heartbreak over what has happened to my former profession. And, to me, much of the degraded state of reporting today is directly attributed to growing media consolidation.

When I worked for KIRO News Radio, I reported exclusively for KIRO. But now, KIRO is part of a much […] group of radio stations, and this gets to the crux of the problem. Broadcast reporters today, they don’t have any time. Instead of just reporting for KIRO, they are rewriting their stories for the web and for all of the other radio stations that are a part of that group.

I am not complaining about KIRO specifically, because this is happening everywhere; it is just that I happen to know that station. Instead of each station having its own newsroom, you have one newsroom that is serving several different stations. Instead of being out on the streets or at City Hall or digging up stories and researching, reporters are simply rewriting the same old stories for the multiple outlets that they now have to service. And because they are not out and able to work a beat, develop stories, research, or even just think – they don’t have the information. More importantly, they don’t have the self-confidence to really dig to ask hard questions, to take the flack that comes when you ask hard questions and write the story that is not the story that has just been laid out for you.

When you don’t have time to listen and you don’t have time to ask questions, the result is this enormously heavy dependency on spot news. Fires, homicides, crimes… any reporter will tell you those are the easiest stories to report about. They require the fewest amounts of resources and the least experienced reporters. The other thing that happens is press releases get turned into stories and a lot of big stories are not pursued simply because reporters are spread too thin with too many ‘masters’ to serve. What we get instead is simply rewriting the newspaper or a press release. I should say today that I work for a public relations agency, and if you can afford to pay me, I can get you on the air or in print because I know how to serve it up and reporters are desperate for that. Thanks.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey