Jeri Davis, Blogging for the Reno News and Review after the Weekly’s Suspension

Tamara Snight reports on a sudden turnaround for a local journalist due to the economic effects of COVID-19.

Jerri Davis (left of left picture, in a photo provided by Davis) at the 2017 Nevada Press Association Awards and on right in quarantine, now writing a blog for the Reno News and Review, which has suspended its print publication.

Jeri Davis grew up in a rural area near Elko and is deeply embedded in Nevada’s rich history. In 2014, Davis received her masters degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno, and is the News Editor for the Reno News and Review — a local publication which recently suspended its weekly print publication due to a loss of ad revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent interview, Davis shared past journalism experiences and expressed hope for the future.

Q: How did you get into journalism?

A: I was the editor of my high school newspaper for several years and I did initially get scared out of journalism when I was preparing to go to college. One of my close advisers was talking to me about her own fears about what the internet would do to the funding model for journalism — the whole thought of it spooked me so badly that I decided to get a pragmatic degree, except not, and so I went to school for anthropology with a specialization in historical archeology. I got that degree right when the economy changed with the Great Recession so I never really worked in the field and towards the end of the recession, I made the decision that I really wanted to return to my first love, journalism. I knew with the tiny media market that we have here in Reno that my best chance at landing a job I actually wanted would be to go back and get a masters in journalism.

Q: What led to your position as News Editor with the Reno News and Review?

A: Shortly after I graduated with my masters, I was on the job hunt and over the summer I went to work very briefly as the producer for the 11 a.m. news on Channel 4 — it was not a good fit for me. Television journalism does not work well for long-form journalists who are used to writing. I very quickly left that and went to teaching at the university but I knew Brian Burghart who was then the long-time editor of the Reno News and Review. I had submitted one of my stories to him while I was still in grad school, he had commissioned another one from me and then one day, in the fall of 2015, I got an email from him saying ‘hey look, a full-time position is opening with the paper and you need to apply for it.’ It was a really lucky break and I came on as the special projects editor. Then I became the associate editor and held that down for a couple of years. My colleague (Dennis Myers) died in August — he was an encyclopedia of knowledge on our state and its history and its politics so when he passed, someone needed to take on that job and just focus on hard news so I took over doing his job.

Q: Why did Reno News and Review suspend its print publication?

A: We had always been a little bit cash-strapped — advertising as a funding model is not ever the most secure. We managed to stay afloat through the recession but when the novel coronavirus made its way over here to our shores and things started to shut down in Nevada, very quickly our advertisers were closing their doors and were unable to advertise with us. We lost almost half of our weekly revenue overnight and we just didn’t have the reserves anymore. That’s why we closed our doors and that’s why we’re pursuing an online blog asking for donations.

Q: Where do you hope to see journalism as a practice in the future?

A: I have a lot of high hopes that this kind of turning inward toward the community and supporting each other is something that we’re going to carry with us after the virus slows down. I hope that we will find some kind of funding model for it.

I honestly believe the young people who are really well-versed in the internet and social media and how it can be used to affect change are going to pick up the mantle of journalism and drive it into the future. For people like me, who are established or maybe getting a little older trying to keep up with those things — we can be a great voice of experience passing on the traditional values of the fourth estate but it’s going to take some young people who are really innovators to find a path forward for journalism.

It’s important to be embedded in our communities to share not just the bad times but the good times as well. The most important value of journalism to me is speaking truth to power, holding our elected officials and the people who make the decisions accountable to the public.

Q: Where do you see yourself professionally in the future?

A: I’ve talked with a lot of different publications — we’re a tight knit community and because we have so many independent papers that cover different things we’re never really fully in competition with each other. As for my own plans, to be honest, this is unprecedented. Not even during the recession did I have to apply for unemployment but I’ve done that and my plans for right now are to continue to see if there are ways to raise a phoenix from the ashes on the paper and to bide my time.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists today?

A: Basically, what my entire masters thesis was about — I wrote an extended white paper and mocked up potential ways to go about an education so that journalists are not just learning journalism as a trade and then getting your standard liberal arts education. I think that all young journalists should think about what they are passionate about and continue to pursue that if it’s technology, medicine or fashion you need to know more about it so put your electives there.

Media Tips article by Tamara Snight shared with the Reynolds Sandbox

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