By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
“Is Abdul a journalist? A commentator? An entertainer? A gossip-monger? All of the above?”
That was a fair question raised by my colleague Brian Howey of Howey Politics Indiana in his recent column about changes in Indiana news media titled “Media, When the going gets weird…” In it, he laments how “degreed and seasonal” professional journalists have been replaced by students and bloggers. He also complains that access to Indiana lawmakers and policymakers is no longer reserved for “professional journalists.” I understand his frustration. However, to quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin.”
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.
Am I a traditional journalist? Despite my journalistic background, I’m the first to say no. I do have degrees in journalism and communications from Northern Illinois University, a masters degree in government and public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield, and a law degree from St. Louis University. I also worked as a media spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General for eight years.
Currently, I do the evening radio show on WIBC-FM and write columns for The Indianapolis Star and The Statehouse File. I contribute as a regular panelist on WRTV 6’s “Indianapolis This Week” as well as “Inside Indiana Business.” I own the political news blog “Indy Politics,” and I write the best darn political gossip column in Indiana called “The Cheat Sheet.” I have a background that not only qualifies me to write about government, but allows me to provide a unique perspective on public policy concerns.
Beyond all that, I also understand three concepts about 21st century news.
First — I must do something unique with readily available content. If Gov. Mike Pence were to hold a news conference tomorrow, a summary of his remarks would be regurgitated by everyone in the “traditional” press. What I’ve done, first on radio and later online, was to present the governor’s remarks in their entirety. Unlike “traditional” media picking and choosing what would be heard, I allow members of the public to hear everything and decide for themselves what matters most.
Second – news is no longer consumed when news producers decide it’s feeding time. We live in a 24-hour news cycle with multiple platforms. When I report a story on indypolitics.org, I send it out in social media. If it’s big enough, I use it as the basis for a column in one of my numerous media outlets. The various aspects of my professional media career are interactive, and complementary.
Third and most importantly – news is a business. My “traditional” media friends sometimes forget the goal of news is to sell advertising. We strive to craft compelling and informative stories, but it’s still a business. While I do a lot of things, none of them is free. My media forums must generate income or lead to something that does.
One of my biggest successes has been “The Cheat Sheet” – my political gossip column that has broken several stories picked up by “traditional” media. I clearly label its content as gossip, rumor and blatant innuendo.
It just happens to be right most of the time (about 90 percent). Even though it irks my “traditional” media colleagues, I’ve never tried to pass it off as anything other than what it is. The folks who read it, mostly Indiana’s news and policy makers, get that.
Back to the original question – who, or what, am I?
Ultimately, I am a businessman who has a product that people want to consume. That product is information concerning mostly Indiana government and politics. I have figured out a way to gather, produce, and distribute something the free market has determined people want. I have also developed credibility with newsmakers who want to provide me with this information. I make no apologies for any of these relationships, and feel nothing but satisfaction because I have managed to adapt and incorporate a 21st -century news delivery model that is not only effective and enjoyable, but profitable. Thanks for reading!
Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.