A panel of journalists assembled by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said this past Thursday old media must embrace and work with amateur journalists to ensure its survival.
Speaking to about 100 people gathered in the auditorium of the Time Life Building in New York, panelists from print, broadcast and new media platforms debated the pros and cons of decline of print media and the growth of digital media at a Time Inc.-sponsored event called the "Future of News."
"In my time, newspapers were a monopoly," said panelist and former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll. "We made a lot of money. We had large staffs of journalists and, at times, it seemed as though we were just looking for ways to get rid of our money. But that time is now over. The economics of the digital age are attacking old media from many directions at once and taking readers to a place where content is free."
But rather than seeing aggregators like Yahoo or Google as a threat, traditional media outlets like magazines, newspapers and television should embrace them and find ways to partner with them, said Jeff Jarvis, founder of the buzzmachine.com and director of the interactive journalism program at CUNY. "I’m one of the people that helped coin the phrase citizen journalist and I wish I hadn’t because we’re all citizens," said Jarvis, who also was a founder of the magazine Entertainment Weekly. "But now that anyone can do journalism, we need to find more ways to collaborate in what I like to call networked journalism. We can work together as professionals and amateurs to deliver the news that influences society."
But Jill Abramson, managing editor of the New York Times, along with Jarvis and Carroll, said society should worry about the eroding role of traditional media in reporting the news. The three said without the resources and the trained journalists of the "big media companies" the stories such as the controversial federal wire-tapping story reported by the Times earlier this year, would never see the light of day. "It’s very fashionable to predict the death of newspapers," Abramson said. "And the disappearance of Knight Ridder and the upheaval at some of our competitors companies have fueled this prediction. But the newspaper industry is still a business with double-digit profit margins. And, while some of our competition may be cutting staff, we’re still continuing to invest in more staff and better journalism."
CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein said the Internet provides news companies the ability to track consumers’ every move and, by analyzing that movement, media can begin to provide consumers with the news they want in more traditional formats. "We know which stories are being watched by which people," he said. "We see the vapor trail and what we’ve found is that people want real news. People want to know what’s fresh. Where we lose them is with the stories that drag on, like the Laci Peterson story. And when a story does drag on, they just want to know when it’s over. So we’re trying to bring that approach to television."
Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore, speaking before the panel, said Americans are now spending 14 hours a week online, the same amount of time as they spend watching television, and just three hours on print. But rather than running from that challenge, Time’s magazines are embracing it. "We must liberate ourselves from fear because what seemed like a challenge now seems more like an opportunity," she said.