Changes in media: How local news outlets plan to stay relevant in the digital age

Local News

Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek, who helped organize the discussion panel, said the area is not a "media desert" after The Vindicator closure, as some had predicted

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – With The Vindicator closed, Monday night was a chance to talk about what’s next in local media. Officials of the library system put together a five-person panel for discussion at Youngstown’s Newport Library.

Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek said the area is not a “media desert,” as some had predicted.

Brenda Linert, editor of the Tribune Chronicle and its new edition of The Vindicator, was one of the first to speak during the discussion with leaders of the area’s media companies.

On September 1, the circulation out of her newsroom more than doubled.

“Obviously, there have been some growing pains,” Linert said. “We have been working very hard to get the paper delivered. I think that’s the biggest problem we have been facing.”

“We’re going to have to look for additional ways to get to our audience,” said WKBN News Director Mitch Davis.

He said one of those ways is through web reporting. WKBN recently hired two reporters whose stories only appear online.

“Eighty percent of the traffic to WKBN’s digital properties comes from a phone today,” Davis said. “This is how news is consumed.”

Mike Moliterno, with The Business Journal, said a big issue in making sure local media outlets survive financially is stopping social media sites from getting a majority of the ad revenue while producing no content.

“I think you’re going to see these trends continue. I’m not sure how you wrestle that back.”

Davis agreed, talking about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“He has done more to harm the craft and the industry of the people up here at this table than any one individual in the past 50 years.”

“Deep, original reporting is going to set us apart,” said Mark Sweetwood, editor of the new Mahoning Matters, which launches Wednesday.

To do that, Sweetwood suggested media outlets collaborate. For example, he said only one outlet needs to post trick or treat times.

“If only one person was doing a Halloween trick or treat list, would that allow four other organizations to do more original reporting?”

Sheila Miller, assistant news director at WFMJ, said after The Vindicator closed, they decided to keep doing what they’ve been doing. “Stay in our lane,” was how she put it.

Miller added that recently, the station started an investigative series focused on government and also plans to hire people for its website.

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