Updated: 3 days ago
This week, I caught up with reporter Arni Thomas of NYC Patch to discuss my work and why changing the news may be a lofty goal, but a necessary one.
You can read the article in it's entirety below:
How do we get more people to read the news?
That's the question that one media specialist puzzles over every day.
Tianna Mañón is the owner of Mañón Media, a press relations firm that is going past pitching stories to the news. Mañón is actually trying to change major issues in news, including building trust, increasing readership and representation. She said if news is to survive, some real changes are necessary.
I sat down with Mañón to discuss her work and what she sees as possible solutions:
1.) Where did the idea for your firm come from?
I actually grew up wanting to be a journalist and thinking PR was the "bad side." However, I was running a Black magazine (Open Mic Rochester) and working part-time in a public radio station and still struggling. I was not only struggling financially, but my health also took a hit. I couldn't take it anymore and I was fortunate to find a work in PR. It was a virtual position that paid double immediately and I realized that yes, I could make more money but even more importantly, I could have a much bigger impact. Instead of writing a story for my one station, I could pitch a story that would be picked up by a bunch of stations.
Once I had that realization I never looked back. So being in PR has actually allowed me to tell the news in a way being journalist truly never allowed me to.
2.) You used to run Open Mic and also work in various newsrooms, how did that prepare you for this bigger work?
I know what reporters, editors even newsroom leaders need. I know the struggles with time, money and staffing they face so every time I pitch a story, I have a 100% success rate simply because I pitch the right story to the right person. 10 years in journalism gave me that ability. I also just happen to know a lot of people. *Laughs*. Writing three stories per day every day for a few years will do that to you.
Leading Open Mic allowed me to see firsthand how tough it can be to try and reach an audience but I learned early on that if you tune your systems for listening, it's much easier for the audience to guide the work. They know what they want to read. Journalism is a service and so ultimately, the people get to choose how they need that service to look. Working in OM helped me swallow my pride, my own ideas of what I thought they need and instead simply listen and provide what they do ask for.
3.) So, ultimately, what are you hoping to accomplish?
I really want a newscape that is relevant to more people. You should want to watch the news. You should also walk away from every article more knowledgeable, more informed and, ideally, understanding your role or agency in this news. So when it comes to reporting on new laws, it's not enough to say Democrats want to pass it. You have to explain who is impacted, how and whether they actually want this. It's people-first journalism. I also want more Black and brown reporters so I try to mentor a lot of young journalists and just always send stories their way.
Long-term I would love for the line between community and journalists to erode completely. Journalists don't just inform readers, it goes both ways. So I would love to replace our current system of journalism with something that is representative and accessible. I'll be honest, the way we do it now, its harmful audits not bringing us closer and it's just not always accurate. To me journalism, isn't just listening. It's about using this information to further someone's agency so they can make the change they want.
4.) OK. That's pretty big. Why does this matter?
When news isn't accessible, people don't read it. It's that simple. You can try to shame people into reading the news but that never works— for anything! Readers are facing the digital divide, the high price of news subscriptions or they just don't want to read violent/negative most content. However, people not reading the news isn't just bad for this industry, it's bad for this nation and the health of the entire world. People need to know what s happening, why it's happening and how to make the change they'd like to see. That's the only way we can build a world that's fair to everyone.
5.) Do you think we need to do things differently? How do we start doing so?
Absolutely. We need a new way of doing journalism
First and foremost, journalists have to stop considering themselves a voice for the voiceless. You're not. The community has a voice and if you'd shut up, you can hear what residents are saying. I would love for us to explore the ways we tend to step all over this voice: the stories we choose to cover, the sources we line up and even just how much space this coverage gets. I think before we get there, we have to make a lot of internal changes. More pay, better hours, so journalists have the mental fortitude to do this work. Ultimately, the reader and the reporter should be working together and that's the future of news.
5.) This is all so interesting. How can people connect with you?
I'm on social media, of course. In the fall, I'll hold a couple workshops but people are always welcome to email me: email@example.com. You can also subscribe to my website to stay-up-to-date.