A Harvard Panel Tackles the News Blues

Source Organization: Project for Excellence in Journalism

Author: Mark Jurkowitz

10/18/2006 - Twenty years ago, when Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy was founded, there were no bloggers, podcasts, or Fox News Channel. Reporters didn’t have email addresses, letters to the editors were hand written, and telephones were plugged into walls.

But even back in 1986, there was a growing sense of a seismically changing news business and of a widening chasm between the journalism profession and the public.

When journalists, academics, and dignitaries gathered at Harvard on Oct. 13-14 to celebrate the Shorenstein Center’s 20th anniversary and to evaluate the current media landscape, those core issues had been magnified exponentially by the sweeping technological change of the past two decades.

“What has fundamentally changed is the fragmentation of the audience,” noted panelist Bill Kovach, founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. “That’s what everybody is struggling with.”

Kovach and his fellow panelists spoke before a packed house (as well PBS “Frontline” cameras) at an Oct. 14 Shorenstein seminar. Their topic, designed as a discussion of journalism’s role in American civic discourse, had a simple title: “Media and Democracy.”

But the issues were dauntingly complex, the solutions were far from clear, and the tenor of the conversation vacillated between gloom and hope. There was certainly broad agreement that a news industry making a bumpy transition from an eroding old business model to a new but uncertain one is coping with very difficult issues.

Read more on the Web site of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

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