In 1997, Henry Payne, the political cartoonist for the Detroit News and editor of TheMichiganView.com, said he was in Washington D.C. for a press conference on the international agreement on climate change called the Kyoto Protocol. Payne recalled the first question of the press conference was asked by the New York Times environmental reporter.
"How do we get Americans to stop driving SUVs?" Payne said the reporter asked.
Kyoto sets binding agreements for 37 countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.
Payne said the rest of the press conference was "simple cheerleading" by reporters.
He used the 13-year-old anecdote during a panel discussion about new media put on last week put on by the TheMichiganView.com and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Payne said the incident was an example of why the evolving new media is needed to get different perspectives to news consumers.
Moving forward to recent history, Payne pointed out that during the last couple of years the "Climategate" scandal has become a household word despite the mainstream media's reluctance to report it.
Climategate refers to the release of thousands of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit in England by a whistleblower with access to them. The emails showed the disdain that some of the researchers harbored toward scientists with differing views and appeared to show evidence of suppressing information that ran contrary to the majority opinion regarding global warming policy. Publication of the e-mails led to allegations of misconduct in global warming research.
Payne said it was Fox News and the emerging news web sites on the Internet that led the reporting on Climategate, while the Detroit Free Press, New York Times and old guard established media generally ignored the story.
Michigan has had two noteworthy entries into new media this year.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy launched Michigan Capitol Confidential in February to cover public policy and government news that impacts Michigan residents.
In June, Payne launched The Michigan View, which is a political news site linked to the Detroit News.
"There will never be a mainstream news media anymore," said Ken Braun, managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential and part of the five-person media panel. "It is becoming what I call a multi-stream media. That's the future we are headed to."
That future will still include traditional newspapers and TV stations but also blogs and niche news sites, Braun said.
Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Michigan View have been started at a time when the traditional media is making cuts to its workforce.
Newspapers have been cutting staff for the past two years.
For example, in 2000, the Lansing State Journal had four reporters on a state capitol reporting team. That team is gone.
Today, two Detroit Free Press reporters, who work for the same Gannett Corporation that owns the Lansing State Journal, provide the Lansing newspaper's capitol coverage and work out of the Lansing newspaper's office.
TV stations have also had budget cuts.
"Newsrooms at television stations are being gutted," said Kathy Hoekstra, a communications specialist at the Mackinac Center for the last two years. She was previously a broadcast journalist at a local television news station for nearly a dozen years.
Hoekstra said TV stations are hiring young reporters "who have never learned how government worked" while experienced reporters have barely enough time to get out the regular news of the day.
"No one is left to act as a watchdog for government," said Hoekstra. "There is little to no investigative effort. I do find it astonishing that I had to leave television news to do real, meaningful, journalism."
Hoekstra did the story exposing how filmmaker Michael Moore's movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" had qualified for a lavish refundable tax credit from the state of Michigan paid for by this state's taxpayers. The film criticized Wall Street for taking the bailout and taxpayers' money.