I’m not sure if WDET has a theory of change. If they do, it’s definitely not an explicit one. However, a more definite guiding principle is that of honest journalism. Which I would hope all publicly funded news media would have. NPR’s ethics handbook states the following about honest journalism:
Journalists who conduct themselves honestly prove themselves worthy of trust. In the course of our work, we are genuine and candid. We attribute information we receive from others, making perfectly clear to our audience what information comes from which source. We avoid hyperbole and sensational conjecture. We may sometimes construct hypotheticals to help explain issues and events, but we reveal any fabrication, and do not otherwise mix fiction with our news reporting. We edit and present information honestly, without deception, and we identify ourselves as NPR journalists when we report. Only in the rarest of instances – such as when public safety is at issue, or when lives are at stake – might we disguise our identity or intent when reporting. Before we take such a step, we engage in rigorous deliberation and consider all alternatives. Then, when we tell the story, we fully disclose what we did and why.
Recently, I have discovered that WDET is on the search for a Digital Editor for their website and social media profiles. I sat in on a meeting in which they discussed the expansion of media offerings to our audience, WDET listeners. It connected to this notion of “theory of change” as this new position would bring many changes to how content gets distributed and pushed out.
But I don’t think that’s along the lines of the notion of a “theory of change.” But maybe this new position opening will change how WDET operates internally. And that will in turn change how they do journalism.
As an individual intern I’m unsure if I contribute to this. It seems like they rely heavily on Newsroom interns for their numerous daily 45 second or so audio blips and bites of reporting while on air. Which seems like an unsustainable business practice. But perhaps not since unpaid internships are the norm and students are eager to work for free. But WDET can’t particularly pay their interns since they can barely afford to pay most of their staff. A good chunk of staffers are only part-time, which is weird. Hopefully one day we as a society believe enough again in publicly funded media to invest in it again.
Perhaps the biggest way that WDET is putting into practice their theory of change is by just doing radio journalism about Metro Detroit. I do recall Jerome one time saying that they teach interns how to “commit” journalism, like a crime. Journalists around the world are arrested for reporting. So, this work is important to do–even if we take journalism for granted here in the United States.
(initially written in journal on 6/19/18)