We Need an Upgrade

Editor & Publisher reports on a panel that Columbia University held last night, titled "Journalism Dialogues on The Changing Media Landscape." Members of the panel (which included Bill Grueskin, managing editor of Wall Street Journal Online, Kevin Sites, a correspondent for Yahoo News, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia) responded to questions from audience members, including one that asked "How can we protect journalism?"

Lately, this issue seems to be at the forefront of of every journalists' mind, whether it is expressed in debates over "traditional" media vs. blogs, or the changing rules of ethical conduct, everyone is focused on ensuring that journalism stays relevant and still maintains its standards.

The panel's answer to the previous question was, "Update your business model and you can keep your journalistic values."

While the editors expressed concern over the role of traditional media in the future, they offered ways to make newspaper coverage more relevant and compelling. Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times Union, tells his staff, "Report for Web. Write for print."

Over the next few months, the Times Union’s Web site will also feature more localized coverage, which, according to Smith, is what print editions need to do in order to compete with the 24-hour news cycle. Local news, he told E & P, is what newspapers have to offer, so why should a newspaper give readers the news that they saw last night on TV?

Newspapers have drifted away from catering to local audiences, but this is what readers really want, said Smith. He said that newspapers need to embrace online citizen journalism which gives stories a local touch, while maintaining the storytelling and investigative reporting that “builds a brand” for the paper.

“That kind of work is valuable to the community whether online or in print,” he said.

As journalism students, we hear a lot about the changing media landscape and the uncertainty of our chosen careers. It is encouraging, then, to see these issues continue to be discussed and flushed out by veteran journalists of both the "old" and "new" mediums.

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