Some say journalism is a dying industry; local newspapers often only have a fraction of the staff needed and broadcast journalists are suddenly largely multi-hyphenates. Mainstream channels like CNN and FOX don’t necessarily appeal to younger audiences and show hyperpolarized depictions of the news. The answer to these issues, according to Andrew Callaghan of Channel 5 Action News, is independent, civilian journalism.
“The best way to consume media is (through) firsthand clips,” Callaghan said. “You saw that in 2020 the George Floyd video was more powerful than any news anchor bit could have been. (It) reached more people … Just make sure you're not consuming, you know, propaganda and misinformation; just try to be aware.”
Callaghan was just in Ukraine in early April covering humanitarian efforts in the city of Lviv but has spent most of his time reporting while road tripping around the United States. Known for his coverage of many fringe subcultures around America on his YouTube channel “All Gas No Breaks,” he recently founded Channel 5 Action News and is taking on more pressing, serious issues to broaden his coverage.
“I’m not gonna talk shit about my old work. It was important and it was empathetic and voyeuristic, but at the same time … I already did that,” Callaghan said.
Callaghan credits Loyola University’s journalism program with teaching him how to write news stories and utilize AP style. Still, he pushes back on some aspects of what journalism school teaches and the traditional norms of a journalist.
“The idea that a journalist is objective … it's not ever possible. I think a journalist should recognize their bias and be honest about it that way, you know, like, ‘Oh, I'm getting news from somebody who fucks with Trump; I'm getting this from somebody who is a Joe Biden supporter,’” Callaghan said.
While well-intended, Callaghan said many journalism classes are out of touch with how younger generations consume media, primarily through social media.
“No one I know, what, sits down at 10 p.m. for an hour of cable news, punditry … I consume most messages on Instagram. Like, if some newsworthy shit happens, I'll see like a friend posted on their story. That's how we consume stuff,” Callaghan said.
Callaghan also differs from the norms of traditional progressive media, with his coverage of a lot of the right-wing movements in America, including the recent trucker-led “People’s Convoy.” He said while progressive media outlets argue they don't want to give them a platform, he understands that they make up such a large voting block and are thus important to cover.
“So with the right wing, anti-vax, you know, 'People's Convoy' style thing, I allow them to expose themselves … I think I'm doing a service, especially because (with) me looking like I do have privileges others don't. So I can blend in, in some of these groups, get the content that I need and distribute it across platforms,” Callaghan said.
However, at the Q&A hosted by the University of New Mexico on April 20, Callaghan did say he was trying to stray away from following the extreme right-wing activity, as it isn’t as prevalent as it was during election cycles, and he doesn't want to make it seem larger than it is by following it to the last strands of the movement.
He said he is not planning on returning to Ukraine, feeling as though he told the story there to the extent that he could.
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“I'm not going to go back because I sort of told the story to the extent that I felt that was right for me. I'm not a war reporter. You know, I'm a human reporter, but I can go into a war zone and talk to people,” Callaghan said.
While Callaghan said he is open to the idea of going overseas again if there is a reason to, he is invested in covering the many different regions of America.
“No DNA strands has the word American on it. (America’s) a complete abstraction. So that's why it's important to travel around because you can go to 100 countries in one. I think of America in terms of what they call micro-regions instead of states,” Callaghan said.
Furthering his belief that independent journalism is the future, he encouraged students at UNM to take journalism into their own hands if they feel so inclined.
“The coolest thing about journalism is it's kind of like a free ticket into, whenever you want to dive deep into, because everybody appreciates coverage,” Callaghan said at the Q&A.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite