I&CO Salon Recap: Sara Machi

I&CO
I&CO
Apr 28 · 4 min read

For the second I&CO Salon, Product Design Director Ashley Lewis sat down to talk (virtually) with Emmy-nominated reporter Sara Machi. For the city of St. Louis, Machi is the daily news reporter and recently has been tracking the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

These Salons are designed to broaden perspectives by looking at other industries. To guide the session, the guest speaker selects one of eight possible I&CO Maxims that feels the most applicable to their industry. For the journalism industry, Machi explored what it means to “Seek The Invisible.”

*The following is a summarized account of the I&CO Salon discussion on April 22, 2021.

Story Seeking

Journalism and media have been a big topic of conversation in society lately — so much so that everyone has an idea of what it means to be a reporter.

As a reporter, Machi tries to find out what works, what does not, and why. She wants viewers to know how the story affects them and what they can do to create change. When asked about a day in the life of a reporter, Machi repeated one word: deadlines. It is something everyone can relate to, but the news industry requires some of the quickest turnarounds.

Example Schedule:
9:30 AM Present pitches at the editorial meeting
10:00 AM Story seeking (in the pandemic, you call people)
3:30 PM Edit
4:00 PM Finalize
5:00 PM Live

Trying to seek the invisible is harder than ever because reporters can not go out into the world. What gets lost in the pandemic are the daily interactions that allow for story seeking. Machi has pivoted during this time by searching in online communities.

Beyond navigating the challenges of storytelling in a socially and politically volatile environment — Machi also has been reporting the news throughout a global pandemic. The pandemic is possibly the biggest news story of our lives. It is a story Machi appreciates the challenge of telling differently every day.

“What is written without effort is read without pleasure.”

— Dr. Samuel Johnson

Like many aspects of our world, it is interesting to think how much technology has changed the way we work. At the same time, we can see technology has brought about the ability for false and inflammatory information to spread very quickly. Around 2015, fake news entered everyone’s lexicon. The news can be slanted and misconstrued, but some things are simply false.

“If your mom says she loves you, go get another source.”

To combat fake news, Machi supports a process called Verify. Viewers can send in things they see on the internet, and her news team will verify them by doing the necessary research. From this practice of comprehensive transparency, even people who disagreed with the outcome loved the pieces.

Story Telling

To find the best story, Machi finds ways to bring major events home and make them relevant. All news is local. When someone agrees to be interviewed she does everything to make them feel heard and sets expectations.

Also, when identifying individuals, Machi needs to make sure she is covering different perspectives. Finding input from both sides of a story can paint a bigger picture in a world that sometimes lacks multiple perspectives.

The stakes of journalism are incredibly high right now. Machi is reporting during a time of historical significance when it comes to the national conversations on white supremacy, with the death of Michael Brown and following protests in Ferguson shifting this conversation into the public eye in 2014.

The whole news industry is going through a conversation on the framing of words. For example, “unarmed black man” carries a lot of weight.

These three words are a shorthand way of communicating the unjust shooting of a back man based on racial prejudice that already assumed he was a threat. To prevent this from happening, assessment through a social justice lens is embedded into every part of the story process.

A thoughtful storyteller will consider the following:

  • Are we intentionally enough with our words?
  • Are we creating harm?
  • Are we focusing on something that does not matter?
  • Are we perpetuating stereotypes?
  • Are we talking to the right people?

Machi believes journalism has always been attention-hungry, and it is becoming increasingly so due to the digital platforms fighting for your attention. Clickbait or inflammatory headlines ultimately have the potential to create more harm than good because these narratives are often misleading.

A better practice when going up against the attention economy is to understand your platform and speak to the culture of that online community. Machi joined TikTok, where she has adapted her presenting style and content, leading to the following video with over 800k views.

To be informed for the next I&CO Salon, follow us on Medium and Instagram.

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