Qwoted is committed to exploring the current state of the media by speaking to industry leaders and educating future generations of media professionals. What has social media and technological innovation brought to the table? What can we expect for the future of journalism?
For ten years, Erica Sandberg worked in a non-profit organization for credit counseling and budgeting. Craving flexibility and freedom, Sandberg wrote a personal finance book and walked out of her office the day it hit the shelves to begin her freelance career as a reporter and writer. Sandberg was in uncharted waters. “I had a few contacts in local news – which I exploited to death – but my first year was tough,” Sandberg commented.
Today Sandberg is the host of KRON TV program Making it in San Francisco. Her work has been published in SF Gate, US News & World Report, USA Today, City Journal, and National Review. “I love writing and reporting, but of course not everything is fun. Some projects aren’t stimulating, or they may require an incredible amount of grueling work. But I say yes to everything and am always glad I did.”
Q: If there’s one thing you could change or improve about journalism—in any area—what might that be and why?
ES: I would like to see more daring reporters. I’ve transitioned into political reporting, and it always leaves me slightly breathless. Reporting on controversial topics can be scary, but the world doesn’t come crumbling down. You’ll be so glad you took risks. In turn, you’ll have grateful readers. It’s easy to take shortcuts, but let’s be bold, honest, and willing to speak the truth. Be that person who is adventurous in their research. The world is filled with great stories, and the process can be enjoyable.
Q: The profession of journalism feels more attacked today than in a long time, but also highly necessary. Do you feel that’s true, and if so, why?
ES: It is more attacked, and much of it is deserved. I find the current standards very distressing. Information filters through a political perspective and is less objective. Current outlets are not providing much perception to other points of view, which hurts both their credibility and the public. They might have the eyeballs, but they’ve lost so much more. Honesty must rule and journalists have got to get the truth out, which sometimes means reporting things you disagree with.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring young writers and reporters?
ES: When digging into a story, you may be blocked by officials who don’t want to come clean. Don’t take no for an answer. Make good use of the Freedom of Information Act. You have the legal right to know what’s happening and so does the pubic. You may annoy people in power but that’s OK. It’s part of the job. Make every effort to be truthful in your reporting and to open your mind to different perspectives and information that clashes with your preconceived notions. If you do that, your stories will improve, and you’ll feel better about yourself at the end of the day. That kind of honesty and attention to different perspectives is what the journalism world needs.
Q: Social media has upended the traditional media landscape. One of the great challenges it creates is authenticity and malevolent actors. How do think journalists and reporters should deal with the rising tide of misinformation?
ES: We’re all super busy trying to meet tight deadlines, so it’s really tempting to rely on reports from other journalists. Take the time to call people up and ensure that your data has been properly researched, though. Regurgitating information is a huge problem. It becomes a game of telephone and starts to get very murky. It’s time consuming to do your own work – but do your own work.