National Press Club

Print Journalists Still Print -- and Shoot Video, and Take Photos, and Provide Live Commentary, Panel Says

November 12, 2008

"Newspapering" is no longer the strict job definition of USA Today correspondent Donna Leinwand, she told students at six universities in five Western states Monday.

As she covered the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in Houston and Galveston, Leinwand traveled with a videographer through the devastated area.

“I’m a print journalist, the type with a notepad,” she said, waving her notepad at the TV cameras in the Club's broadcast studio that was Webcasting the forum.

“But we had a camera mounted to the front of the car, and I had a microphone as the photographer was driving down to Galveston,” she added. “I was giving running commentary that was running live on the Web so that people could see what I was seeing as I was seeing it.”

She described the rooftops blown off, the storm damage, the weather and what exit she was at.

“We had 6,000 people or so following along on the Web as I drove down the highway,” Leinwand said. “I had no idea if people would be interested in that kind of stuff. It seems that they are.”

Leinwand was speaking at one of the Club’s forums on “The First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and the Future of Journalism.” The Club is holding these forums around the country to mark its 100th anniversary this year. This forum was Webcast to students at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, the University of Idaho, the University of Montana, the University of South Dakota and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Richard Dunham, bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle, described how covering politics became much more intense as reporters wrote on different communications platforms instead of just for the newspaper.

At each 2008 presidential debate, he said, “I was live blogging using Twitter. It would be live on our Web site, and the last 20 postings would be right there on the screen. At the same time, I was doing an analysis for the newspaper. So when the debate ended, I had a half hour to file the analysis story for the newspaper. At the same time, I was taking photographs to do a photo essay that I would file after I filed for the paper.

“Then I did additional online stories afterward,” he said. “The newspaper gets the same story it would have gotten from me four years ago or 16 years ago, but I’m doing about five or six different things there.”

"Doesn’t that affect quality?" he was asked.

“You exhaust the reporters,” he said. “There is a real risk of errors. When you are that worn down, little things can slip through.”

Ken Mellgren, who is developing new products for the Associated Press’ broadcast service, said the AP provides online video to 2,000 clients who are running it on their Web sites.

“The newest thing on the horizon is mobile news network,” he said. “With the touch of a button, you input your ZIP code that you're interested in – it could be your hometown or where you are right now. It will direct you to a lot of local stories and content. Shortly, you will have videos and slideshows and audio sound bites.”

But the problem, Mellgren said, will be figuring out how to make money on this gee-whiz technology.

“We look at it as beach-front property.” he said. “We’re investing in it for the future. Will that be the future? Who knows?”

Mark Jurkowitz, who analyses changes in the news media for the Pew Trust’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, said finding new ways to support journalism is crucial.

“What we really have is an old business model that has taken us this far and a new business model that has not yet developed,” he said. “Many people who look at the business think that it is in for an exciting but difficult transition of maybe five years, maybe 10 years, before the economics turn around and we can be assured we are getting ... quality journalism.”

The next forum is today at the City Club in Cleveland, Ohio.

Video and photos from this forum event are available on the NPC Centennial Forum site.