In a speech before a standing-room-only crowd in the Hussey room of the Michigan League last night, guest professor Fara Warner gave an unusually optimistic diagnosis for the future of journalism in an increasingly technologically oriented culture.
In her talk entitled “The Blogosphere: The Future of Journalism?” Warner assured attendees that despite the seemingly dire future of the industry in the Internet age, there is much potential for reshaping journalism to tap the full potential of new technology.
According to Warner, the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism, 13,000 journalists lost their jobs last year, in addition to the number of professional publications that folded. But she said this is not reason to believe the industry is unsalvageable.
“I’ve been listening to people talk about my industry and I am tired of the woe is me, stick our heads in the sand, and that newspapers are going to go extinct,” Warner said. “Journalism is not dead. It’s vibrant and it is active and is being pursued around the world.”
Warner said that today’s news media is mainly an entertainment source, not satisfying her thirst for hard-hitting news stories focusing on the economy, politics and the war in Iraq.
“To me radio — talk radio in particular — and cable television is not about news,” Warner said. “It’s about talking heads and partisan politics. It is about argument, it is about debate, it is about fighting words. It’s a cheap way to have entertainment.”
Warner’s lecture focused on new media opportunities for journalism and, more specifically, Internet sites that completely revamp the way people think about journalism.
Warner talked about the innovative ways that people get their news today, citing examples of twittering during the Mumbai attacks and live stream of the Inauguration on cell phones. She said news sites like the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast, once aggregators from other news sources, now hire their own reporters to cover the news.
“(Journalism) is taking different forms. It is going through rapid change and evolution,” Warner said.
Warner said other examples of the future of journalism are found in websites like Scoop44.com, a site created by Harvard and Princeton students that focuses on politics the way they want to see it covered. Another example, Spot.us, is a site that covers stories using community funding. In this model, people pay for a portion of the stories they want to see instead of the media outlet relying solely on advertisers.
On the website, journalists pitch stories they would like to write, and if the community responds positively to it — by donating money to the website for that specific story — the journalist will then write it.
Alissa Ng, an LSA senior said she enjoyed Warner’s concept of an ever-evolving type of journalism.
“I liked it when she said journalism is living and breathing,” Ng said. “People think that newspapers are what journalism is all about, but that’s not really true.”
She added: “I thought newspapers were the only real journalism around because I could see it and hold it.”
Susan Douglas, professor and chair of Communications studies, said she was happy to hear what Warner said, not just for her own studies but for the future of her students.
“I think she actually laid out a somewhat hopeful prognosis about the future of journalism, which I think is great because a lot of our students are interested in becoming journalists.” she said. “We don’t want to get to rosy eyed but I think she did a great job of laying out an alternative optimistic perspective.”