Turn Your Critical Lens Inward, Pt. 2
A Q&A with SRCCON:POWER speaker Ben Mullin
SRCCON:POWER is coming up in just a few days, on December 13 and 14. Before then, we’re previewing the speakers selected to talk at the event. Here’s our Q&A with media reporter Ben Mullin, who’ll be talking about how power plays out in industry news and the media’s coverage of itself. He’ll be speaking alongside editor and writer Rachel Scallom.
Ben Mullin on Why Media Companies Need More Transparency
Would you introduce yourself to our readers, please?
I’m a media reporter at the Wall Street Journal, where I cover cable TV distribution and digital media (weird combination, I know). Before that, I was the managing editor of Poynter.org, where I oversaw the Poynter Institute’s coverage of the news industry. I started writing about media in college after realizing my student newspaper was about $70,000 in debt. I wanted to figure out why, so I started calling up student publications to figure out how they were making up for declines in print revenue to sustain their journalism. Most of the stories I’ve written since have been a variation on that theme.
Can you tell us more about why this topic is so vital right now? If we’re not covering the industry or our own news organizations with a critical lens, what is the cost? What’s at stake?
News organizations help people decide what matters. That’s enormous power, and it should be scrutinized. Specifically, media companies are struggling to find new revenue streams, replenish their ranks with representative hires, and adapt to new storytelling formats. Our democracy hinges on their ability to accomplish those things.
What are a few high-level takeaways from your talk that you wish everyone could hear, even if they can’t be in the room at SRCCON:POWER?
If you work at a news organization, remember that there are journalists covering your company who can’t do their jobs effectively without your help. For all their grand pronouncements about transparency, for all the power they possess, many media companies are shockingly opaque. Often, good journalism about media requires newsroom employees to turn their critical lens inward and help reporters tell the story their bosses are trying to spin.