National Press Club

News Outlets "Fighting for Survival," Yet Young People Seek Jobs in News

January 19, 2009 | By Gil Klein

Posted by Ryan Howell - 01/19/2009 | Email the editor
News Outlets "Fighting for Survival," Yet Young People Seek Jobs in News

For the Club’s Centennial, you sent me across the nation to hold forums on the First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and the Future of Journalism. At every stop, I gathered leading journalists from print, broadcast and the Internet as well as journalism scholars and First Amendment authorities.

In all, our project involved about 130 journalism experts and reached 38 live audiences in 35 states and the District of Columbia as well as thousands more people who saw panels in C-SPAN, and on local television and radio.

I want to thank the Club, Sylvia Smith and Bill McCarren for the opportunity that provided me to extend the Club’s reach for the first time to a truly national audience.

I want to thank Tony Culley-Foster for his tireless effort on securing the first corporate sponsor, Aviva North America, to underwrite this project, and I want to thank Tom Godlasky, chief executive of Aviva-North America, for this support. And I would like to thank the World Affairs Councils of North America for providing organizational help in cities where its local chapters embraced this project.

NPC Board members and past presidents helped me with forums since I could not be everywhere. Sylvia in Indiana, Donna Leinwand in North Carolina, Alan Bjerga in Minneapolis, Rick Dunham in Houston, Jerry Zremski in Maryland, Tammy Lytle in Naples and Dick Ryan who made a special presentation at the Gerald Ford Library in Ann Arbor. Also past presidents Lee Roderick helped with the organization in Salt Lake City and Vivian Vahlberg in Chicago.

I bring you greetings from press clubs that co-sponsored our forums in Atlanta, San Diego, Denver, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Naples, Fla. as well as from journalism schools across the country that did so much in helping me organize these forums.

Everywhere I went, I found people had a high regard for the National Press Club and were amazed and pleased that we were bringing our program to them.

Yes, I found journalists struggling with the deteriorating economy and the burdens on the basic economic model for the news business by rapidly shifting technology. But I also found determination to provide serious journalism in the face of these conditions and an enthusiasm for the possibilities of developing new ways of telling our stories and reaching new audiences.

It could be, as one panelist said, a golden age of journalism – if we could just find the way to pay for it.

The full report, called “Journalism at a Juncture,” can be found here.

Summaries of each forum and video clips can be here.

Here is a summary of the findings:

  1. News organizations, especially newspapers are “fighting for survival” as technology and economic turmoil have undermined the basic economic model that has sustained them for more than a century. A long-term recession could “change the face of journalism.” News organizations believe they are “in a race against time” to find new sources of revenue.
  2. Demand for accurate, dependable news is still great and growing. Combining the printed newspaper with the on-line product, more people are reading what newspapers produce than ever. The Internet is giving television stations new outlets for their news. No matter how much news and commentary is on the Internet, people will look for brand-name news they can trust. But news organizations have to work hard to deserve that trust. Credibility is “a commodity we convey. If we lose that, we’re out of business.”
  3. The newspaper newsroom is essential to all other forms of news. Only newspapers have had the resources to provide the breadth and depth of reporting for their cities. Without a robust newspaper newsroom, television, radio, and Internet news as well as wire services like the Associated Press will have trouble making sense of what is happening.
  4. News organizations are embracing new technology rapidly – some say desperately. Every organization is afraid of being left behind by the latest breakthrough. Some journalists warned that technology now tells editors what people want to know, which is diverting reporters from exploring what they should know. News consumers are coming to expect that news will be delivered to them when they want it and where they want it, putting new pressures on news organizations to keep up with the latest technology and keeping them under tight deadline pressure.
  5. As news organizations cut staff and embrace new technology they run the risk of burning out their reporters who now are under constant deadlines on multiple news platforms. Many reporters said the new demands are leading to shallower news reporting and more errors.
  6. Investigative reporting is suffering from staff cuts and new demands on journalists’ time.
  7. News organizations no longer have open checkbooks to defend government attacks on freedom of information and the First Amendment. Governments are figuring that out and official secrecy is growing.
  8. Mainstream journalists are debating the merits of “citizen journalists,” untrained people who are reporting on events as though they journalists and often supplying information to news organizations.
  9. From Boston to San Diego and Atlanta to Milwaukee, there are some fascinating breakthroughs where journalists are creating entirely new journalism entities that are filling the gaps left by shrinking mainstream media.
  10. Students are flocking to journalism schools in ever greater numbers, lured by the possibilities of using all of the new media with which they have grown up. Journalism professors say they have to harness that enthusiasm with a good grounding in journalism ethics and purpose.

I hope a new corporate sponsor can be found to continue this important work of involving your Club in helping to devise the next generation of news media and to make sure that the journalistic values we hold dear will make the transition.