As online journalism continues to chip away at the world of print media, newspapers and magazines will need to constantly adapt to the demands of the internet age, editors from Time and Newsweek told a crowded audience in McCormick 101 last night.
During the event — titled "How Dead is Print?" — Time, Inc., managing editor Jim Kelly '77 and Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas discussed the future of print news media. Both editors' publications have reduced their print circulation due to diminishing readership, but they remained optimistic that some manifestation of print will endure in the future.
Magazines and newspapers, Kelly said, are "recognizing the fact that readers don't just want to use content, they want a hand in creating the content." For instance, he said, The New York Times lets readers engage with the paper's writers and columnists through blogs and comment features.
One problem with the move to the internet, however, may be that it provides a smaller source of revenue. "We cannot charge for an internet ad what we charge for a print ad," Kelly said.
Nevertheless, online advertising may be the way of the future, Kelly said. He noted that companies like Johnson & Johnson and Jeep are taking their advertisements to the web, and, in some cases, even redirecting funds that would previously have been dedicated to print ads, using them to launch their own sites catered to their target audiences.
In the past, newspapers tended to rely on classified ads for revenues, but they are being replaced by online alternatives like craigslist.com, Kelly said.
Thomas emphasized, however, that a market still exists for print publications. "The scariest thing would be if The New York Times and The Washington Post [disappeared]," he said. "But I don't think that's going to happen ... The news organizations that provide the greatest stories on a day-today basis are the great newspapers. People would really miss it if [they] were really gone."
Though publications are increasingly using the internet to provide their readers with interactive offerings, Thomas said some journalists find it burdensome to spend a lot of time responding to reader comments, which detracts from their time for reporting and writing. Online discussions can sometimes be less than civil, he added. "I appreciate interactivity ... but the comments are crude, vengeful, heedless, thoughtless, discouraging," Thomas said. "They're mostly venting — they're like road rage."
Thomas admitted that citizen journalism in the form of blogs is gaining wide popularity, but he said that blogs cannot replace print news because they lack objectivity. "Journalists at least try to hide [their biases]," Thomas said. "That's just missing from most of the blogs."
Thomas said the objectivity question is particularly pertinent to the relationship between media and business — two groups whose separation, both editors said, has traditionally been viewed as akin to the separation between church and state.
The objectivity question that journalists grapple with is also tied to the financial stability of print media, Thomas said. He raised the example of a Newsweek reporter whose story angered Lockheed, which had previously bought ads from the magazine but pulled them after the article ran. This meant significant revenue loss for the publication, but it was heartening that the magazine's business office didn't interfere with the writer's work, Thomas said.
But, he added, if the news and business sides of publications do begin to interact, that would be "subtly blurring that line."
"Whether [journalists] will have to go to business school too, I don't know," Thomas said.
But he emphasized that professional journalists will always be around, and that the basic requirements of journalism will remain the same. These include, he said, "being relentlessly curious, wanting to get to the story and being able to tell a story about the story that is animated and lively and draws people in."
The event was part of the Louis R. Rukeyser '54 Memorial Lecture Series, organized annually by the University Press Club.
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