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Journalists weigh in on adapting to changes in profession

| Monday, April 24, 2017

In celebration of The Observer’s 50th anniversary, former Observer journalists discussed changes to the journalism industry in Carey Auditorium on Friday. The panel was moderated by Tom Condon, class of 1968, a former columnist and chief editorial writer for Hartford Courant.

Speakers included Michelle Krupa, class of 2000, who serves as news editor for CNN Digital, Tom Jackman, class of 1982, who runs the The Washington Post’s True Crime blog, Noreen Gillespie Connolly, Saint Mary’s class of 2002, who serves as deputy sports editor for Associated Press and Madeline Buckley, Notre Dame class of 2011, who reports for The Indianapolis Star.

Condon began the panel by noting the technological changes he’d seen since he graduated from the University.

“The only thing that tweeted were birds,” he said. “… Reporters wrote stories on paper and were edited with crayons or pencils, something red.”

Krupa said she first experienced the massive changes of the digital era while working for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

“When I was at the Picayune, I was faced with my first sea change in the industry, which was that the Newhouse Company … they decided that in the digital age, presumably because stories can be online 24 hours a day, they would reduce the staff by more than half and start printing the paper three days a week instead of seven,” she said.

Krupa said these changes pushed her to embark on a new career path, so she headed to CNN, whose digital platform provides expansive opportunities.

“We have a different kind of parameters but a different kind of freedom … there’s this new freedom in digital where we can hit publish at any time of the day,” she said. “We’re on sort of self imposed deadline. We want to be first. We want to be the ones with the most interesting and correct information.”

Jackman said he witnessed dramatic challenges at The Washington Post, such as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos purchasing the newspaper.

“The Post’s mission for many years was covering Washington,” he said. “ … So Jeff Bezos said we need need to be bigger than that and go to the world and build that brand. People had heard of that brand. There was this thing in the seventies with a hotel and a break in and all that stuff.”

The change to digital forced Jackman to slightly alter his role, he said.

“I’ve had to make the change to digital … and also learn how to file all the time, and that was new, and a lot of the people at The Washington Post have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age because we liked one deadline,” he said.

Gillespie Connolly said the changing nature of journalism has forced her to be more flexible.

“In my 15 years with the AP, I’ve been a reporter, I’ve covered government, and I’ve been a manager,” she said. “Three years ago, after a decade in news, I switched to sports.”

Adaptability, Gillespie Connolly added, is a necessary trait in aspiring journalists.

“I would say that the biggest thing [is] as industry has changed, as text has become video, as print has become broadcast, long form becomes short form and goes back to long form,” she said. “Don’t get too settled on a particular path because you’re going to have opportunities that you would have never expected,” she said.

Buckley said one of the biggest changes she noticed concerned the social media aspect of reporting.

“When I graduated in 2011, newspapers were fully immersed in the digital world, but it was only until my last year at The Observer that the website was becoming less of an afterthought,” she said. “So the things I’ve had to do in my reporting since graduating really [have] changed and surprised me. Just yesterday, trying to tie things up for the weekend, I wrote sample Facebook prompts for a story that’s running Sunday. I wrote news alerts for a story that’s running Sunday. I worked on video with a photographer.”

Despite these wholesale changes, and the seemingly dire straights of print journalism, Gillespie Connolly said good journalism is crucial in informing the American people.

“I think that we’re sitting right now in a political time where you’ve got a President of the United States challenging the credibility of journalists every single day, and I think what is going on and the reporting that is stemming from the political narrative is getting more readers, more interest in what we do,” she said. “Yes, there are allegations of fake news. … There is more going on in journalism right now and more smart, good news reporting that it makes it more necessary than it’s ever been.”

When asked whether students ought to pursue journalism, Jackman said “Yes. Hell yes.”

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a Sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies, with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. He serves as Associate News Editor, lives in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas