In 30 years of working in and around the media business, I don’t remember seeing anything like the seismic moves we saw in recent months with government and political journalists in Michigan.
It was a reshuffling of editors and reporters that affected, at last count, seven news organizations, as movement between them led to a flurry of personnel changes that caused any PR firm’s media list to go bad as fast as the container of cottage cheese accidentally left in your trunk.
As the dust settles, at least for now, there’s a takeaway for journalists and PR types in the Great Lakes State and beyond. Long after content became king, there’s a king among content and that, in 2022 and for the foreseeable future, is political news.
With more news organizations charging for their products online or growing out of nonprofit models that rely on consumer donations, it’s easier for them to see what’s of value beyond clicks. At least in Michigan, but certainly in other markets too (as evidenced by the booming business of the New York Times and Washington Post online), news readers will pay for political news. In this election year, that caused a war for talent, as well as for scoops and eyeballs.
Among those with a new work email address is Emily Lawler, now the Politics Editor for the Detroit Free Press. Here’s how she explains the appetite for news about politics here:
“When I started covering Michigan politics in 2011 it seemed like national politicos were happy to put us in the blue box because of our presidential track record, even though there were key indicators we were a lot more purple than people gave us credit for. Remember, coming off of the 2010 election we saw the Tea Party gaining a voice here and Republicans sweep top offices and the legislative chambers. But it wasn’t until Trump’s win here in 2016 the complicated Michigan political scene became impossible to simplify or ignore.
Michigan has played a role in nearly every political storyline of national importance since then, and we’re lucky to have a contingent of political reporters here who have become experts in honing in on what matters to our state’s people and politicians. Those journalists — and I’m humbled to be one of them — are valuable. It’s great to see readers, subscribers and the news industry as a whole recognize the value of Michigan political reporting, and I think that’s what you see reflected in the recent shuffle of our political media landscape.”
For PR types, this means resources are being routed to where the news is and where the readers are. If you don’t have a candidate or an issue or a even a bill, you might not get covered as easily as you wish.
For journalists, well, it’s never just about content. It’s always about business too. Here’s how one news insider around here explains it, “…a couple of newsrooms were offering better pay and benefits for similar work, and others eventually scrambled to meet market demand… A lot of us view this moment as a real win for reporters who have long been used to getting paid less than they’re worth even as the work gets harder and harder.” In other words, the news business is still tough. But for some, it just got better, or at least more fair.
For news consumers, this is a big win. There’s now no excuse not to be well-informed.