Cardinal’s Pulitzer, Emmy Winners Optimistic About Journalism’s Future

That really shouldn’t have to be a headline, right, but how many of these do I complain about to you guys, panels of journalists talking about how journalism’s glory days have passed by and kids today don’t read and everybody’s just interested in Kardashians now and everything sucks? I either attend one of those things or read about one happening elsewhere once a week, which is why I drink so much.

Finally, on Friday, I went to one that was inspiring instead of hectoring. It was in conjunction withThe Daily Cardinal’s 120th anniversary, and was actually two panels, one of Emmy/Peabody winners and another of Pulitzer winners. They had in common that they got their start at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s oldest student newspaper, and they were speaking primarily to an audience of journalists and other journalism students.

In the morning, there was a lot of talk about ethics and transparency intraditional media. Chuck Salituro of ESPN said the network now bans its journalists from writing “as told to” books for sports figures, because of the inherent conflict in being the ghostwriter for someone you’re covering (IMAGINE). Both Steven Reiner and Peter Greenberg of CBS talked aboutvideo news releases and the perniciousness of their use in smaller markets.

They also spoke about “experts” paying to opine on various news subjects. And all these things were allowed to happen, were allowed to flourish, because the new economics of journalism placed ever more pressure on people to produce material, and the temptation to take the easy path was greater.

(As an aside: Why is it that every Q&A ever includes at least one person who stands up and says, “MY QUESTION IS I HATE YOU?” It’s like a law of nature.)

Cardinal photo by Mark Kauzlarich

In the afternoon, the print folks took over and a lot of the questions they were asked about the “future of news” resulted in my two favorite answers: It’s always been endangered and it’s actually less endangered now because new voices have less expensive platforms to work through.

Abigail Goldman, formerly of the LA Times, said that one day we’ll look back on this as a golden age of journalism, because students are learning to be entrepreneurial, to scramble, to push themselves through the noise online. “Those who do good work will rise,” she said, and, “The medium doesn’t matter. The story does.”

Neal Ulevich, who photographed the Vietnam War for the AP, said the web has been good for getting news photos attention, and noted that a lot of the imagery coming from war zones now comes from cell phone cameras. “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the image.”

Which is very true. What we have now, in journalism, are tools we didn’t have before, and the ability to combine those tools, to specialize in terms of subject matter but broaden our work in terms of the ways we cover things. Immediacy isn’t always bad. Twitter isn’t ruining everything. Asking people to send in a cell phone video is not going to kill us all. And as long as the story isn’t trivial, the coverage won’t be.


One thought on “Cardinal’s Pulitzer, Emmy Winners Optimistic About Journalism’s Future

  1. Admittedly, I have no links to professional news systems. But I would question if:
    Twitter/Cellphone Cameras/… haven’t ruined everything, but they sure have introduced new dynamics which we haven’t learned how to deal with. For example, everytime there is a dust devil, someone with a cell phone sends the video which is then posted as a headline on the weather channel (of course, with absolutely no educational materials )- which I would say helps trivialize the importance of real weather alerts as well as feeding narcisism (think of South Park and the video cam in the Guinea Pigs / Pan Flute episode). Likewise, where the traditional press reporter would be looking either for a shot which told the story or a shot which was representative, now the reporter must choose, from the internet, a picture which hopefully fulfills one of these functions. I think of my local TV news page which is well known for using stock pictures completely out of context (such as a picture of a jumbo jet for a story on a small aircraft). OTOH, I applaud this same ability of the ‘net being used to get out pictures of news which normally would have been quashed.
    Also, American Magazine (disclaimer, heavily Jesuit influenced) recently had an interesting short article where it questioned if the use of various social media turned communication from a communication between 2 people and changed it to a more broadcast system where the recipient is less of a personal participant (their terminology was from an I-thou to an I-it relationship). Of course, a lot of that will be for the sociologists of the next century to argue about.

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