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Journalism leaders discuss the state, future of media

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Priya Anand.

The media industry is not “necessarily shrinking,” Tom Rosenstiel, designer and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism said during the School of Media and Public Affairs’ “State of the Media 2010” discussion Monday afternoon.

Rosenstiel said the media industry has major revenue problems and the notion of primary news sources are obsolete as people are now “news grazers” who move across multiple platforms to stay informed, instead of reading in-depth articles from one news source.

In the panel discussion, Sesno asked Tina Brown, founder and editor in chief of the news aggregation, reporting and opinion Web site ,The Daily Beast, how to make it as a journalist in the current economy.

“Subject matter has energy by its collision with other types of subject matter,” Brown said. “I think people, in their lives, like that mix between high and low and risqué and serious.”

Charles Sennott, executive editor of the online international news agency GlobalPost, said the traditional models of foreign correspondent will cease to exist in coming years.

We are now left with “fantastic correspondents who are out there looking for work,” he said.

Jim Brady, the president of Digital Strategy at Allbritton Communications, said there will no longer be any winner-takes-all competition in the new age of media.

“There are hundreds of really good local news sites and web sites in this region that we’re going to partner with,” he said.

To fix revenue problems, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page said people will be forced to pay for quality journalism. The New York Times announced in January they will begin charging frequent users of the site in January 2010. The move raised questions and concerns from Web-reader but when Sesno asked how many in the audience currently pay for online news, only three audience members raised their hands.

“There was a time when people were not willing to pay for TV reception, but it is now customary,” Page said, adding that the news may follow the same course.

Robert Entman, Shapiro professor of Media and Public Affairs, declared that mainstream media is an important facet of modern American politics, despite the shrinking audience.

Mainstream media “separates the noise from information,” he said.

In addition, Entman argued that reporters possessing the ability to provide their own analyses of events would better serve the public.

“Those who are the most dedicated to news as facts have less individual freedom of expression than all of those sometimes irresponsible, sometimes ignorant folks who are present in the newer, growing media,” said Entman.

Keynote speaker Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of National Public Radio, discussed the grimness of the PEJ report, citing the statement that the recent losses in journalism overwhelm the innovations.

“As bad as things are, as bad as this report makes things seem to be, I do believe there is opportunity in chaos,” said Schiller. “This, right now, is the time for us to adopt new ways of doing things. Public media may have many of the answers to the growing information void that this report so painfully describes.”

In actuality, NPR has seen its audience grow, and more people gave money to their local public radio stations last year amid the economic crisis.

Schiller said she had a message for students aspiring for careers in journalism.

“Do not let your parents and neighbors tell you that you should not go into journalism because there are no jobs,” she said. “You will be the ones to reinvent the news business. You will make money.”

During the event, SMPA Director Frank Sesno announced the launch of the school’s revamped Web site, which can do “just about everything but pay your tuition,” he said. He also told the audience of a new partnership with the Pulitzer Center and You Tube, a partnership that will allow GW students to receive reporting grants. Five finalists will be awarded $10,000 grants to work on an international reporting project with the Pulitzer Center.

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