This past week, political science Professor Zoe Oxley’s class, Media and Politics, visited the headquarters of ‘The Daily Gazette’ for a class trip. The class was joined by experienced staff members who were able to provide students with a glimpse into the history, importance and transformation of the paper over time for the local community.
The class listened on as the discussion led by Senior Vice President and Editor of the Gazette Judy Patrick spoke about the true roots of the paper. Patrick was joined by fellow Gazette staff members: Editorial Page Editor, Mark Mahoney and Reporters, Bill Buell and Jeff Wilkin.
Patrick stressed that the 123-year old paper’s local focus was what made it an indispensable piece of the community’s daily identity. On the paper’s connection with the community around it, Patrick commented that, “We are a local paper, and we pride ourselves on being local.” He added that, “Reporting on local stories is the bread and butter of what we do.”
The local connection that the paper has is a reflection of its leadership and ownership, of which it has had under independent family control since its inception. This provides the paper with a unique dynamic in comparison with many other media sources, as it was reported by Business Insider in 2012 that 6 companies control 90% of America’s media.
Mahoney, who in 2009 won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, sees the importance of independence in a newspaper where many challenges can often arise. For Mahoney, the great value in the newspaper is the ability for it to be a trusted voice for the community. His Pulitzer Prize is accompanied by the description of “down-to-earth editorials on the perils of local government secrecy, effectively admonishing citizens to uphold their right to know.”
This three-way relationship between the government, the media and the consumers is a challenge that the newspaper often finds itself in the middle of. It was also amplified with the political outcomes of the past year. Patrick spoke to this saying that now more than ever, “there is constant pressure as to how you present the news.” This came with the rising phenomena of fake news over the past year, intensifying the burden on media that would already come during an election year. The other major focus for the Gazette has been the transformation of media, and specifically so for newspapers in the digital age. Patrick said that, “newspapers have traditionally been a history of what happened yesterday. We’re trying to shift our focus to what is happening now.” This delicate shift is one that newspapers have seen develop. For the Gazette, this will be a constant pursuit, whether that be through their website, social media, and more. Union students left the Gazette headquarters with a visit to the printing press that produces the newspapers for publications across the Schenectady area, before returning to campus.