Analysis & Comment

Who writes the news? And, can you?

As a kid, it was Mom and Dad’s news I absorbed – Walter Cronkite, Mel Mains, Time, Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, National Geographic – and the Lincoln Journal and Star that my brother delivered to the neighborhood. And later, of course, along came CNN, Fox and social media.

Many years ago, the news slowly stopped capturing my attention. I’m not really sure when, but sometime after they announced that the news was too glum, and that brighter, happier news was the answer. The headlines no longer represent the articles, the articles didn’t make sense, and then the article became more storied commentary, by omission.

Back then, I didn’t know much about big agendas, regulatory capture, or controlled-opposition. But as snippy sarcasm and hyperbole has grown, and I find myself checking my own, I long for a different way to get information. I wonder if there is a way to build trust, relationships and community news in this tech-focused world. Can a network of neighborhood volunteers build their own skills and knowledge, and provide news for themselves? Is someone already doing this?

If not, what are the challenges? Can a disparate group of neighbors put aside their own, perhaps hardened, opinions, really learn about the agendas of others, and objectively communicate how that agenda impacts their lives, and the lives of their community – in a way that a national or multinational corporation cannot do?

What would be the goal of such a thing?

  • TO LOOK AT ALL SIDES: Summarize public meetings and issues, make connections larger agendas, and provide open source information for all sides of the issues.
  • TO HAVE CONTEXT FOR DECISION-MAKING: Source information on candidates for elected office, what they’ve said, accomplished, and think, and identify their funding sources and affiliations.
  • TO TELL OTHERS: Tell your real stories, even if not perfectly punctuated or grammatically great, about how these agendas are impacting our community now, and how they will influence our future.

If you live in Lincoln, Nebraska, please volunteer to listen, speak or more. There are many types of jobs to be done. Attend a meeting or contact

More questions than answers…

What interest do national or multinational corporations have in owning a local newspaper? How is the Journal Star reporting the offer to acquire Lee Enterprises by Randall D. Smith’s Alden Global Capital? The Washington Post refers to Lee Enterprises, owner of the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald, as “one of the last large independent newspaper chains in the United States.” What is the definition of ‘independent’ in this context? According to this list from the Seven Big Owners of Dailies, from Harvard University’s ‘Future of Media Project’ Lee ranks as the second largest behind Gannett.

  • Advance Local Publications (22 dailies) 
  • Alden Global Capital Venture Capital owns Digital First Media (56 dailies).
  • Chatham Asset Management owns the McClatchy newspapers (30 dailies) and Canada’s Post Media. 
  • Gannett Co., Inc. (250 dailies).
  • Hearst (23 dailies).
  • Lee Enterprises (90 dailies).
  • Tribune Company (10 dailies).

Are local volunteers already participating?

Seeing Red Nebraska describes itself as delivering “commentary on Nebraska politics from the left,” and as a group of “citizen volunteers concerned about where Nebraska is headed.” In what ways does this group’s efforts support the cause of open source information? For example, what insight does their commentary on Senator Mike Groene provide compared with the North Platte Senator’s own perspective on politics and his comments about threats on his life. Is the Senator’s recent speculation on KFAB, and implication that asking the ‘wrong questions’ could end his life just hyperbole?

Aren’t only professional, credentialed journalist qualified to tell the news?

  • Walter Cronkite, former CBS news anchor, receives the Norman Cousins Global Governance Award in 1999, and is commended by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Good evening and congratulations, Walter, on receiving the World Federalists Association’s Global Governance Award. For more than a generation in America, it wasn’t the news until Walter Cronkite told us it was the news.”
  • In February of 2017, Mika Bzezenski, CNN host, after an on air comment that implied controlling exactly what people think is ‘our job'(CNN or journalist in general?) job’, she tweeted this clarification, “Today I said it’s the media’s job to keep President Trump from making up his own facts, NOT that it’s our job to control what people think.” What does it mean for a person to make up their own facts? And, why is it the media’s job to keep a person from doing that?

One perspective on the history of media

A link to the notes for a recent course taught by James Corbett on Mass media, a previous report, “Breaking the News – How the First Media Moguls Shaped History”, and a Solutions Watch podcast “Make Your Own Newspaper