City of Syracuse January 30, 2022. Photo by Michael Greenlar.

What will the biggest stories of 2022 be in Central New York? How can news organizations better serve their communities?

Central Current editor-in-chief Julie McMahon discussed these big questions and more in a panel hosted by WAER. Ashley Kang, director and editor of The Stand newspaper and Camalot Todd, mental health reporter at Spectrum Networks and leader of the Syracuse Journalism Lab, joined WAER’s Katie Zilcosky and Chris Bolt as part of the station’s Syracuse Speaks series.

“I’m very excited about the promise of nonprofit media and what it might mean for our community,” McMahon said.

McMahon, who has a decade of journalism experience including 7 years as a reporter for The Post-Standard, will launch Central Current in 2022. McMahon said the news website will start with a focus on topics including Interstate 81, justice and equity, and arts and culture. She said the news outlet would work hard to find new ways to respond to the community’s needs and the stories that aren’t getting told.

“We want to try to cover systems not symptoms, really following in the footsteps of other nonprofit models across the country,” McMahon said.

She noted the biggest challenge facing local media in Central New York is diversity.

McMahon and the other panelists from The Stand and Syracuse Press Club discussed how they hope to encourage better and more diverse involvement and representation in local journalism through collaborations like the Journalism Lab.

“I think we have a big challenge in Syracuse to make the media represent the community better,” McMahon said. “It’s not just a pie-in-the-sky diversity goal. It really affects everything we do in every day of our jobs.”

Todd noted the lack of arts and culture coverage in the city, and also described how teenagers yearn to see stories about themselves they can relate to in the local media. Students don’t feel positive stories about their neighborhoods are covered, she said.

McMahon said she was excited to take a different approach, and hopefully share these types stories. She discussed solutions journalism, an approach to accountability journalism that she is building into Central Current’s editorial strategy.

“We’re going to try to add depth, we’re going to try to look for solutions at the end of the day,” McMahon said. “We know our deep problems with poverty in Syracuse. We’ve been having that conversation for how many years now. What’s it going to take to move the needle? How’s this going to move forward? Who is solving those problems?”

The hour-long show aired Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. on WAER. You can listen to a recording of the program at WAER’s website.

Have thoughts or feedback about our conversation? Input on what coverage or approaches are lacking in local news? Email Julie at jmcmahon@centralcurrent.org.

Julie McMahon

Julie McMahon is editor-in-chief of Central Current. She's worked in journalism for a decade, mostly in Central NY, as a reporter, editor and professor. Contact Julie at 315-399-7193 or jmcmahon@centralcurrent.org.