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Panel: Journalism’s future unclear

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Advisory Committee for the Gallivan Program of Journalism discussed the changing landscape of Journalism with students Monday, focusing on the students’ future career options in the industry.

The panelists looked at how technology has changed the traditional form of print journalism and what those changes will mean in the future.

“Newspapers will never quite be the same,” Bill Dwyre, former sports editor and current columnist for the Los Angeles Times, said regarding the effect of the Internet on print journalism.

The upcoming years will be a period of adjustment for print journalists because of the fast information available on the web, but newspapers and the Internet are different enough to be maintained on a different basis, Dwyre said. For example, papers might no longer print lists of final scores of various games, but the papers will tell the reader why a team won, he said.

Dwyre said the next generation of journalists would be part of the adjustment process.

“You will be part of the sorting through process,” he said.

The panelists agreed the changing industry will offer opportunities to versatile and determined journalists.

These changes in the industry open a wide area of chance for emerging journalists, executive producer of The Koppel Group for Discovery Networks Tom Bettag said.

“This is now the Wild West with so many outlets and so many jobs,” he said.

The older generation of reporters that say journalism is dying say so because they are scared of new reporters, whose brains are wired to the new mediums of journalism, Bettag said.

Metro columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and former Observer Editor-in-Chief Monica Yant Kinney said younger journalists have a chance to be the first reporters in a new way of producing news.

If students have an opportunity to do something new, they can afford to try it, whereas a reporter at 42 or 43 would not be able to do so, Kinney said.

“The opportunity to take risks is at 22 or 23,” she said.

Director of publishing and the online editor for the Poynter Institute Bill Mitchell described the current media situation as “unpredictable” and a “period of media chaos.”

However, jobs will still be there for journalists, he said.

“The spoils will go to those of you who are adventurous and enterprising,” Mitchell said.

A journalist will be able to tell the story, whatever the medium, Yant Kinney said, referring to news stories formatted to be read on a cellular phone.

“If you had to, you could write [a story] in 150 words,” she said.

Chief Environmental correspondent for NBC News Anne Thompson said the news business goes in cycles and has already changed since she first entered the business. When she first started,

Thompson said she worked with a crew and collaborated with them as a team. Now, she works almost as a “one- man band,” recently traveling to the Amazon with only a producer, Thompson said.

“I grew up in an era of specialized journalism,” she said, “Now you are expected to do everything.”

She said the next generation of journalists would be part of the “figuring it out” process of the changing landscape of journalism.

“You should be excited,” Thompson said.

The panelists said many of the changes in the traditional newspaper form of journalism are an effect of cost cutting practices based on the economy along with technology.

The money spent in printing a paper, along with other costs, presents a compelling argument for a press-less paper, Mitchell said.

But panelists noted the importance of distinguishing true and objective news from online blogs and the un-checked flow of information on the Internet.

“I think the American public deserves one clean shot at the facts before people start commenting on it,” Dan LeDuc, a Metro editor for the Washington Post, said.

Despite changing mediums, journalism is still fundamentally searching for the truth, and those who perform the task well will always be able to find employment, Thompson said.

“If you can write well and gather news, you will always have a job,” she said.