MNM Principal Tony Manolatos gave the local media a B+ and said he would have handed out a higher grade if not for the Twitter habits of reporters.
"For the most part, San Diego journalists do really good work. It's important work, and I hope you all keep doing it," Manolatos said to a room full of reporters and editors as a panelist at an event last week called “Grade the Media.” Hosted by the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists at Point Loma Nazarene University, the annual forum serves as a platform for people in the news to share feedback with reporters and editors, highlighting the highs and lows of journalism.
“Your tweeting drags you down,” Manolatos said. “You probably don’t understand how often your tweets are emailed around – more often than your stories.”
Manolatos was asked to discuss the coverage of three MNM clients: San Diego Unified School District, Councilmember Chris Cate and Clear the Air Coalition. The Clear the Air Coalition is comprised of local leaders seeking answers to questions about our climate and energy future.
He gave Voice of San Diego a C- for its coverage of San Diego Unified, calling it unfair and inaccurate.
He gave the media a B for its coverage of Cate’s decision to share a memo. And he said local reporters covering the Clear the Air Coalition and the possibility of the City of San Diego launching a government-controlled energy program earned a C. “Most of the reporters who cover the issue have sort of bought the talking points (put forward by advocates of government-controlled energy) and lost their objectivity. They’ve bought into this idea that it will be cheaper, greener and better, and that isn’t supported by what’s happening throughout California.”
Each panelist was asked what the local media was missing and what it could cover better.
Manolatos said education coverage is lacking. There also should be more stories about all of the losses stemming from our housing crisis, which he called a “housing emergency.” He praised reporters for their coverage of homelessness and affordable housing, singling out Voice’s Lisa Halverstadt, but said newsrooms should apply a similar focus on the lack of all types of housing and the toll it’s taking on working families, college graduates, seniors and employers.
Manolatos said local newsrooms do not do a good job of keeping their counterparts in check. He suggested the San Diego Union-Tribune start a weekly column that covers the local media. Voice of San Diego, for example, does not do enough to highlight the fact that its founder and primary donor is a major supporter of charter schools, created out of dissatisfaction with public schools, he noted.
In response to a question from a young reporter at the Union-Tribune about how to keep popular stories relevant, Manolatos said the best and most meaningful media and PR work is very often the collaborative work we spend time on proactively. The trick is to spend more time planning and strategizing and less time reacting.
Manolatos was joined by two other panelists:
“You two are a lot more interesting than me,” Manolatos quipped.
Garcia gave the local Spanish media a B, but she said San Diego’s mainstream newsrooms have only earned a C. Winston gave the media an A-.
Click here to read a recap of the discussion in the Times of San Diego and here to read live tweets from @GradeTheMedia. You also can click here to watch the full 90-minute discussion.
Special thanks to Claire Trageser, an investigative reporter with KPBS who moderated the event, and the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists for hosting.