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.)
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.