Although University Libraries Director Bill Gosling accidentally and humorously introduced him as the “president of NBC News,” ABC News President and University alum David Westin proceeded to give an honest and interesting look into mass media news and communication at his presentation in the Michigan Union Ballroom yesterday afternoon.

“We are living through a time where the news is very important,” said Westin.

Westin, who served as president of ABC Television Network until his appointment to his current position in 1997, received both a bachelor’s and a law degree from the University during the 1970s.

“I spent an awful lot of days studying at the Grad Library and the UGLi, and then later at the Law Library,” Westin said, detailing his close ties to both Ann Arbor and the University community. He lived in Ann Arbor for part of his childhood, in addition to his college years.

“As a student I watched some fairly historic events here,” Westin said, mentioning events including the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.

Much of Westin’s speech detailed the responsibility of news organizations to the public, most specifically “vulnerabilities in our homeland security.” Using current examples such as the threats of Sept. 11, 2001 and the Washington D.C.-area sniper attacks, with former U. S. President John Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs circumstances, Westin illustrated the difficulties that ABC News faces on a daily basis.

“We get criticized pretty much every day no matter what we cover,” Westin told the audience. “But we must never shy away from all the facts people need to know no matter what criticism may come our way.”

When asked how he decides what is worth publicizing during the audience question-and-answer period, Westin responded that there are two questions all journalists must ask themselves: “Is it important? Do we have it right?” Westin also stated the importance of knowing the validity of news information: “Multiple sources are your best protection.”

Westin gave several examples in which U. S. government officials have tried to interfere with the ABC News’s publication of news stories, especially those concerning homeland security. While he admitted that he does sometimes acquiesce to the concerns of the government by delaying news information, Westin emphasized that the public’s right to know the news is always his first concern.

“The news media should never be affected in our mission to inform the public,” Westin said.

Westin also spoke of potential costs and difficulties in reporting the news.

“I bear some responsibility of some of what is reported … Too often it is impossible to know what the consequences of reporting on something or failure to report on something will be,” he said

Following the event, recent University graduate Jacqueline Camilli commented on her appreciation of Westin’s visit.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to gain some insight. He shed some light on what a journalist’s job is,” said Camilli, who was one of the more than 100 people who attended.

The event was sponsored by Friends of the University Library, the Office of the Vice President for Communications and the University Libraries.

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