National Press Club

Journos at NPC Forum Foresee Huge Changes

October 8, 2008 | By Jerry Zremski

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The newspaper as we know it will soon be published just once a week, and will eventually disappear.

Radio reporters will be master multitaskers, filing reports in various forms for their stations’ web sites.

And more and more journalists will be entrepreneurs, building their own brand in their own names rather than relying on the lumbering mastadons of the mainstream media.

Those are just a few of the scenarios likely under a bold new world of journalism that a panel of experts foresaw Monday at a forum called "The Changing World of Journalism: From Teletype to Twitter ... Where Do We Go From Here?" and held at the University of Maryland.

The event was one of the Club’s forums on “The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and the Future of Journalism” the Club is holding around the country to mark its 100th anniversary. At each forum, the Club gathers a panel of leading local journalists to talk about where the news business is going and how to protect its core values.

The forum featured journalists of varying backgrounds and experiences all predicting the same thing: a continuing, and radical, shift away from the once firewalled worlds of newspapers, television stations and news radio.

Those forms of media all continue to converge on the web, and that convergence will only accelerate as handheld devices become the place where people look for the news, the panelists predicted.

The result, they said, will be a new era of media where the public will have to be careful to ferret out and disregard news sources that are not credible – but where strong new voices could lead to a new era of great journalism.

“This is a great force for freedom of the press if it’s properly harnessed,” said Leslie Walker, the former editor of washingtonpost.com and now the Knight visiting professor in digital innovation at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the university.

At the same time, though, the panelists indicated that traditional mainstream media outlets would either have to adapt to the Internet era – or die. Newspapers, for example, will have to transform themselves into a web product, they said.

"Newspapers will not survive in a recognizable form," said Kevin Blackistone, a former Dallas Morning News reporter and current contributor to NPR and ESPN who now holds the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the university. "People will get news from their web, on their mobile devices.”

Blackistone predicted that within a few years, some daily newspapers would print paper products only on Sundays, doing the rest of the work on the web.

Meanwhile, Mark Miller, the news director at WBAL Radio in Baltimore, said radio news outlets are already adapting by making themselves the source for the most immediate local news on the web.

He acknowledged, though, that the economic model undergirding Internet journalism remains both uncertain and unprofitable. And as a result, radio stations “are still moving very slowly.”

Individual journalists, however, have the opportunity to move fast, and on their own, to establish their own credibility in a variety of media forms, said Amar C. Bakshi, who spent the last year traveling around the world and producing his web series “How the World Sees America,” which ran on The Washington Post and Newsweek web sites.

Bakshi said he marketed the idea for his series as a business proposal and that other journalists should do the same, noting that editors are looking for innovative web products such as his series.