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More on the Publishers and Editors Roundtable: The Long View for Newspapers in the Digital Age

Posted by tberens on September 11, 2008

The Fred W. Smith Forum was bursting with aspiring and seasoned journalists alike as host of the Roundtable, Everette E. Dennis of the Fordham University Graduate School of Business, began the session. Dennis promised the attendants that this was an interactive session: we were as much a part of the roundtable as the veteran panelists.

“How many of you are students?”

A healthy number of hands proudly shot up.

“How many of you are alumni of the J-School?”

Much of the remainder of the room raised their hands.

“How many of you have worked in the newspaper business?

A large portion of the room had been part of a newspaper at some point. Now for the real question:

“How many of you are feeling optimistic about the newspaper business?”

A moderate number of tentative hands rose. We laughed, but the newspaper’s current shaky reality could not be ignored.

Ken Paulson (BJ ’75) of USA TODAY reminded us that newspapers are not new. “They were the iPod of 1690,” he joked. Still, thought, he claimed to be bullish about the future of newspapers. The business model, on the other hand, leaves Paulson feeling pessimistic. “It is valuable to remember that the First Amendment guarantees the right to publish, not to profit.”

Janet E. Coats (BJ ’84) of The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune believes that part of the challenge of the changing newspaper industry is the problem of expression one faces when publishing online. It is extremely difficult to express the same things online that could be printed in a newspaper.

Michael Golden (MA ’78) of The New York Times Company offered an interesting insight into the shift from print to online media in today’s society. The print edition of The New York Times has a readership of about three to four million per day, while the online version boasts nearly eight to nine million. These statistics further illustrate the changing nature of the industry.

Paulson offered a more optimistic anecdote. He pointed out that, on a recent survey, 93 percent of students on a college campus with a Collegiate Readership Program had read a newspaper during the previous week. He also mentioned that 89 percent of USA TODAY’s revenue comes from the print edition.

Lewis W. Diuguid (BJ ’77) of The Kansas City Star said that the newspaper industry needs to change their approach to covering sensitive issues in order to appeal to a wider audience. He believes that newspapers are failing to address what readers really care about in their lives. “We’re missing the boat,” he said.

After the panelists offered their insights on the fate of newspapers, the floor was opened up for a discussion with the audience. Throughout the session, the presence of technology prevailed. Digital recorders, laptops and PDAs were far more popular than the average spiral-bound notebook.

As promised, the roundtable remained interactive throughout. Dennis ended the session with another question.

“How many of you are feeling optimistic about the newspaper business?”

Far fewer hands rose this time.

By David Oster and Theresa Berens
For full version with images, visit here.

**BLOG EDITOR ADDITION** Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow Bill Densmore recorded the event. Visit the link to hear it.

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Video clips of interview with USA Today Editor Ken Paulson

Posted by Eva Dou on September 11, 2008

With his red travel-rumpled polo shirt, unassuming manner and complete lack of an entourage, Ken Paulson seemed surprisingly plebian for the editor of America’s most widely-circulated newspaper when he stepped into Mizzou Arena yesterday afternoon. While his band tuned up to rehearse for the evening’s “Freedom Sings” performance, Mr. Paulson sat down to discuss journalism with my fellow J1010H reporter Daniel Maxson and myself.

Although he didn’t seem accustomed to being interviewed by technological have-nots fumbling with a juice box-sized flip camera, Mr. Paulson graciously answered our questions for over twice the time period we had meekly requested. The lighting was not ideal in the arena, and there was considerable background noise (including one stage hand doing mike checks-“Two! Two! Two!”-that curiously never began with one and never progressed to three), but the interview on the whole turned out audible and visible, so I deem it a success. Here are some parts of our interview:

Advice from Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson on news judgment

Ken Paulson talks about the present, future of journalism

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The Opening to my Centennial Experience

Posted by Grace Lillard on September 10, 2008

I have been told that the purpose of this blog is to tell the story of the Missouri J-School Centennial through the words of the next generation of aspiring young journalists.  This experience is giving us a chance to see what we can do.  It is also giving the rest of the world a glimpse at what is rising up to meet it.

I wasn’t assigned to cover the BBQ Bash or the Opening Ceremonies, but something happened to me there that rocked my freshman world, and I want to share it with everyone else who is in my position.

Being surrounded by so many talented people tonight was enough to make me more than a little shy.  But somehow I found myself at the front of a group of students clustered around Ken Paulson, the editor of USA Today.  He shook my hand and introducing himself, said, “I’m Ken Paulson, with USA Today.”  I was struck with the thought, “Wow. This is what a real journalist sounds like.”  Being freshmen with relatively no experience in the actual field of journalism, presented with an incredible resource for information, we of course asked him about the most important thing on our minds.  “Do you have any advice for students deciding between a career in newspaper or magazines?”  Very life or death topic.

His answer, however, was one that may have a very real effect on my life.  He explained, in a very passionate voice to his audience of students, that our focus in school should not be on choosing between the newspaper and magazine industries.  The most valuable thing we can do, he said, is to learn how to write, and learn how to write well.  Across all media today, there is a desperate need for people who can convey messages to the public accurately and fluently.  Those that succeed are the ones with talent, but most importantly those with heart.

My greatest desire is to write.  Hearing from an esteemed journalist that that desire is what really matters reminds me of why I am here.  I am here to learn from the best and hope to join them in this profession.  So everyone who is doubting whether they have what it takes, know that in the end, all it takes is the nerve to introduce yourself and the heart to follow through.

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