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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Media executives examine future of journalism

Journalism is rapidly changing, but not disappearing, panelists said at Monday night’s “The Kalb Report” at the National Press Club.

The theme of the discussion was the future of journalism, and former “Meet the Press” host Marvin Kalb guided the panel of four prominent media executives.

The Internet has had a vast impact on American media, panelists said, and traditional news outlets – such as newspapers and broadcasters – need to embrace online journalism to survive. The show, which is aired on radio and television, is a panel discussion jointly sponsored by GW, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center and the National Press Club.

“Western Civilization has this great idea that people are sovereign, but that can only happen when the people are informed,” said Anne Marie Lipinski, editor and vice president of the Chicago Tribune. “The health of this industry is not vital just to those employed in the media, but to all of us.”

To illustrate the drastic shifts in the journalism industry, Kalb cited statistics about the downtrend of the news business. He said 18,000 media employees lost their jobs last year and profits for traditional media outlets are plummeting.

Panelists said these drastic figures are due to traditional media being forced into a new era where they no longer have a monopoly on news. Lipinski stressed how consumers are less reliant on hard-copy newspapers.

“(People aren’t) holding their breath and waiting for the paper to drop on their front porch at 6 in the morning,” she said. “If they want to read about Anna Nicole Smith or Darfur, they have 20 different outlets.”

Cliff Sloan, publisher of the online magazine Slate, said he represented the future of journalism as one of the leading Internet news and analysis sites. He said it was rough in the beginning, but that times are changing.

“All the predictions said Slate wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “They thought people weren’t going to be interested in quality journalism online.”

Even after its recent 10-year anniversary in 2006, Slate’s operating costs are a fraction of traditional media outlets’, Sloan said.

Paul Steiger, managing editor of the Wall Street Journal and vice president of its parent company, warned that this large shift to the Internet might cause problems. He said because many online sources are not established as credible news outlets, the public may be misinformed and confuse rumors and opinions with hard facts.

“People reading blogs might not be able to tell what’s true and what’s not,” Steiger said. “There is no real way to tell if the story is accurate and fair.”

Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, approached the shift more optimistically. He said online sources are not completely ruinous for traditional media, and sites such as blogs can have a positive effect on today’s journalism.

“One way the blogs … are important is it keeps us honest,” McManus said. “There is no way you can have an inaccuracy in any mainstream media without it being written about in the blogosphere.”

The panelists agreed that media outlets need to invest in quality journalism online. They all saw a bright future for journalism if traditional platforms like newspapers evolve, or even disappear. Lipinski summarized the panelists’ sentiments, saying it will ultimately be those buying news that shape this new era.

“The consumer now has a lot of choices for their media, and a lot of pressure is on them to decide what is reliable and what is not,” she said.

Lauren Greenhill, 19, an intern at the Department of Health and Human Services, said she agreed with the panel’s view of the Internet’s effect on traditional media. She added that she thinks new media outlets are more in tune with younger people’s reading habits.

She said, “People are looking for news outlets they can interact with.”

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