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Florida Matters: Media Trends

Daylina Miller
WUSF's Carson Cooper, Tampa Bay Business Journal special projects director Chris Wilkerson and USF Tampa journalism professor Wayne Garcia on Dec. 2 at WUSF.

How are people consuming news these days -- and how is that changing?

We recently welcomed an audience from Leadership Tampa into our studio for a taping of a Florida Matters discussion on media trends with Tampa Bay Business Journal special projects director Chris Wilkerson and USF Tampa journalism professor Wayne Garcia.

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 20 at 7:30 a.m.), we’re featuring highlights of that conversation, along with questions from the audience.  

Hear a preview of the conversation.


GARCIA: The real fundamental disruption in terms of news is that everyone now is part of the news process. All of you all are all consumers of news and information. Everybody in this audience is also a producer, an editor, of news. It doesn’t make you a journalist. But think about it. You curate and aggregate information on your Facebook page for your friends. Oh, look at this. You should see this, too. Now, you didn’t produce that information originally, but we see now major news events are being covered by people who happen to be there with a cell phone.

So, you have this thing where journalists used to be the producers and the audience were the consumers. Now, journalists are both consumers and producers; audience, consumers and producers. And none of us really understand how to make a lot of sense out of the glut of information. It’s been likened to trying to drink out of a fire hose full open. You have so much – what do you believe?

WILKERSON: Right, and you’re also the distributor now. So, it used to be, we had a department at the newspaper called circulation, and they were in charge of going out and finding the audience. Then we evolved over to the point where the journalists on Twitter and on Facebook were trying to find audience, and build a Twitter following. And now what we’ve realized is our stuff – and we pay very close attention to how well our stuff does. We know to the click how many times somebody looked at each story. Now we’ve realized that those stories do best when you guys share them, when you guys see those stories and say, oh, my group needs to see this story, so you’ve become our circulation department, especially on social.

COOPER: It’s kind of a déjà vu here, this internet versus newspaper thing. Back in the 30s, it was radio versus newspaper. The staticky, upstart radio soon figured out it could deliver news directly to consumers. No need for newspapers, at the time, some thought. Just like today, newspapers were livid back then about radio using its news copy unauthorized. Now, I’m happy to see radio these days is doing its own news thing, but radio is facing a new set of challenges these days as well, right, Wayne Garcia?

GARCIA: Well, yeah, you’ve got terrestrial versus satellite, although I think the satellite is not performing quite the way that I think the satellite companies would like it to perform. But a lot of what you see in radio is this deconstruction of traditional watching. And before we went on air, the general manager here said that most people still watch television sort of in the traditional sense, but the growing way that it’s consumed and -- certainly among the millennial audience -- is a deconstructive way with individual videos, individual soundbites. And so everyone’s trying to figure out how do you have that virality? How do you get people to share information? It’s real easy to share videos. Everyone sort of likes to see them. It’s real easy to share visual and photos. They seem to be dramatic. Audio is one of those things, there’s actually been a lot of articles written about why doesn’t audio go viral? You think about it, you never go, oh, wow, listen to that. I gotta share that. So that’s one of the challenges of radio. It’s a marvelous medium, theater of the mind, it can really put you in places that no other medium can put you in, and yet its traditional way of being consumed now faces this challenge to make that technological leap.

Producer note: During the second half of the show, we took questions from our Leadership Tampa audience. The audio file above has all of the audience questions and answers from our panelists. 

One person asked, “Professor Garcia, when you pointed out how difficult it is for media or for audio media to go viral, the one exception I thought of was the Serial podcast, which seemed to capture the national zeitgeist last year, became the most downloaded podcast and at least from a listener’s perspective, really seemed to be a great  example of objective, long-form investigative journalism told with integrity that intersected with really great storytelling  techniques as the reporter really made you feel like you were taking that journey with her and she was for the most part reporting as she was investigating. So my question is do you think something like Serial is a one-off? Or do you think there are lessons in there that maybe show examples of maybe how audio journalism can take advantage of the new media?"

GARCIA: Yeah, I love Serial, and I think there is definitely room for long-form audio podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts and I adore them. And I think that it’s the next evolution of radio. It still hasn’t worked out sort of the technique of delivering it to you, but I think they’ve really gotten good at working out the programming of it.

I would say the people who listened to Serial, that wasn’t a virality to it like everybody shared, oh my god, can you believe … everybody talked about it and they listened to the entire episodes. The only thing that sort of went viral was the Shrimp Shack meme. That’s the only thing to really go viral are memes. I would say I listen to a quirky thing called The Mystery Show, Serial, This American Life, sort of the normal things, and a lot of unusual, abnormal things. StartUp – a lot of business people out there – if you haven’t listen to Alex Blumberg’s StartUp, they take a company from scratch and through the startup process for the first year to whether they make it or not. So I think there’s great storytelling out there in terms of audio, and there’s a lot of truth in information that comes through that. It’s just those things aren’t helping us, like, at the local media level. We don’t have the time or the ability to tell those stories, like, in what does that mean for Tampa? Can we do that? Can we have This Tampa Life? And that experiment has not been undertaken by anybody yet, and I think that’s the great frontier for local media at least is. You see this in some other areas with startups, and you certainly see it with national media, but we haven’t seen it in Tampa Bay. We still are dealing with basically our legacy media, and the things they’re trying to create, but we haven’t seen sort of that entrepreneurial journalism class rise up and create new products, for the most part.

COOPER: Chris?

WILKERSON: Well, I didn’t listen to that podcast, but I’m totally with Wayne that that’s definitely a frontier, and the question of  whether there’s going to be entrepreneurs pop up and create new journalism outlets is pretty fascinating. The entrepreneurs and the startups that we cover tend to either want to make a million dollars or want to solve some kind of societal ill, and whether good journalism, definitely doesn’t fall into the first category, whether it ever falls into the second category, it will be interesting to see, so that’s kind of my take on that.

Lottie Watts is our Florida Mattersproducer, and she also covers health and health policy for.
Carson Cooper has become a favorite of WUSF listeners as the host of "Morning Edition" on WUSF 89.7 since he took the job in 2000. Carson has worked in Tampa Bay radio for three decades.