Your Podsite trial is ending soon. Put the final touches on it with our tips on how to make a great podcast website.

Claim your custom domain name todayClaim your domain

Fake news, clickbait, and the future of local journalism

0 minutes

Can philanthropy save local journalism? Are the calls of “fake news” from Washington impacting the work of journalists in other parts of the country? We discuss those questions and the role of the free press in a democracy with Halle Stockton, managing editor of PublicSource in Pittsburgh.

Halle StocktonHalle Stockton

PublicSource is a nonprofit journalism organization in the style of ProPublica, funded primarily by Pittsburgh’s foundation community. Halle talks about how PublicSource’s funding model impacts its reporting, ways that the organization is breaking the fourth wall to engage with readers, how the team responds to allegations of “fake news” while doing in-depth reporting, and why they’ll never write clickbait.

Halle is a Penn State alumna and was the 2018 Hearst Visiting Professional in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

Interview Highlights [6:00] What is PublicSource and what is your role there?

Public Source is a non-profit independent, digital first media organization, so in human speak that means that we are focused on in depth and investigative journalism in the Pittsburgh region.

[7:37] How does PublicSource fit into Pittsburgh’s media landscape?

Public Source is fitting in in a way that people are seeing it as a more straightforward platform for the type of news that they’re not getting elsewhere and the type of voices they’re not getting elsewhere.

[8:48] What role does the community itself play in that, in terms of feedback you get?

We engage with the community quite a bit via social media but also in person. A couple of the ways that we interact with people, are one, through educational events we call citizens tool kits.

[13:35] How do you strike the balance between catching people’s attention and writing hard-hitting stories?

We’re never going to fall victim to clickbait. That’s just something that we’ve decided we cannot do. We firmly believe that people’s stories, seeing other people going through things is catchy enough.

[14:50] Are you and your team feeling the impact of the attacks agains the media that are coming from Washington?

Surprisingly enough, even in Pittsburgh, it started off as sources kind of laughing about it like “oh are you the fake news?” but even in the past few months when we’ve had some really important stories drop, those institutions who we’ve pressured in those stories through our reporting, we have heard rumors about them trying to cast us as fake news.

[16:38] What role do foundations play at PublicSource?

There’s a firewall between, just like in newspapers, between business and news, there’s a firewall between foundations and news, although it’s not totally the same.

[19:06] What impacts have you seen from your reporting?

One of the most recent ones was with Chatham University, it’s a small university in Pittsburgh, it used to be all female, and recently moved to co-ed, and we reported on a policy in their honor code. It was a policy that treated self-harm as a disciplinary matter. The stories of students who had been expelled or dismissed from campus housing for incidents of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempts , those had been never told.When we put tit [the story] out, within 24 hours the university launched a task force to review it [the policy].

[21:18] Where do you see PublicSource going looking forward?

There are a lot of opportunities. Right now, we’re really focused on the Pittsburgh region. I think in the future there’s opportunity and possibility that we could have somebody in Harrisburg covering state governmental issues in the Public Source way.

More episodes from Democracy Works

Suspect citizens in a democracy [revisited]

Frank Baumgartner

This week marks the beginning of our summer break here on Democracy Works. We are going to be rebroadcasting a few episodes from our back catalog — with a twist.

In fall 2018, we did two …

The second annual Democracy Works listener mailbag

Michael, Jenna, and Chris in the studio in summer 2019.Michael, Jenna, and Chris in the studio in summer 2019.

Before we take a short summer break, Michael and Chris answer your questions about democracy in our current moment. Thank you to …

How to end democracy’s doom loop

As we bring this season of Democracy Works to a close, we’re going to end in a place similar to where we began — discussing the role of political …

The clumsy journey to antiracism

This week, we are bringing you another interview that we hope will give some context to the discussions about racism and inequality that are happening in the U.S. right now.

We’re  joined …

Civil rights, civil unrest

As protests continue throughout the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death, we’ve been thinking a lot about comparisons to the Civil Rights era and whether the models for demonstrations …

Aaron Maybin on doing the hard work of democracy [rebroadcast]

We are working on an episode about the social and democratic context for the protests taking place around the U.S. after George Floyd’s death; we’ll have it for you on Monday. In the …

How you can listen to this podcast

You can listen to episodes right here on the website, or if you prefer, in a podcast app. Listening in an app makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve already heard, listen without using your data plan and many other conveniences.

Recommended apps
Start listening to Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom
0:00
Start listening to Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom
0:00