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WHO NEEDS PRESS CREDENTIALS? In any society, who controls the flow of information is a critical issue. In America, the old-guard press—respected big-city news- papers, the original three TV networks—have spearheaded state and national “sunshine rules” and transparency policies, often through long, expensive court battles. Cambria’s feature stories can take months of Freedom of Information Act requests, not to mention careful interviewing of troubled parents and children who would never agree to speak with her, she suspects, without her Post-Dispatch credentials. At-home bloggers and tweeters don’t have the same where- withal. Can they be part of a fourth estate? Journalist Juleyka Lantigua-Williams ’96 cautions, “Tweeters can help lead journalists to a story, but too often their posts are treated as stand-alone reports without any serious investigat- ing.” English professor Michael Marx says lone bloggers and tweeters “have no editors to guide them, often rely on second- ary sources, or may not have the experience or connections to know which experts are best to quote.” Lantigua-Williams blames the 24-hour news cycle for driving reporters to cut cor- ners, perhaps not probing their sources’ agendas or not bother- ing to corroborate an anonymous source, in the rush to be first to break the news. Jay Jochnowitz ’78, an editor at the Albany Times Union, says professional journalism “isn’t learned by re- gurgitating and opining on other people’s work in one’s paja- mas; mentoring doesn’t come from the anonymous cheers or jeers of commenters on one’s blog.”


A degree in journalism is not requisite. Cambria has “worked next to lawyers, divinity school grads, a former cattle rancher, a college dropout, and an ex-stripper. All became good journal- ists. But they didn’t get there by just declaring themselves re- porters one day.” Steve Rosenbaum recently saw an even more varied press pool: “At the World Trade Center memorial site in May, I stood among more than 100 ‘credentialed’ reporters as President Obama laid a wreath on the site. It was quite a motley bunch—bloggers, folks with Flip cameras, international crews, radio reporters, and some folks who looked like they might have been homeless. It must be hard for the White House to figure out who’s a legitimate journalist and who’s a kook.” In the mixed-media world, the Economist observes, the news “emerges from an ecosystem in which journalists, sources, read- ers and viewers exchange information.” Harnessing “horizontal media,” people themselves serve as broadcast networks. The


THE EDITORIALISTS


Nancy Cambria ’87, reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, special- izing in issues of family and society


Joanne Devine, English professor, scholar of second-language learn- ing, sociolinguistics, global media communications


Jay Jochnowitz ’78, longtime journalist at the Albany Times Union, former state editor, now editorial-page editor


Juleyka Lantigua-Williams ’96, syndicated columnist for The Pro- gressive Media Project, former managing editor of Latino magazine


Michael Marx, English professor, scholar of rhetoric and composi- tion, writing and technology, news literacy


Steve Rosenbaum ’83, user-generated-video innovator and CEO of Magnify.net, documentary filmmaker, formerly founding producer for Broadcast: New York, MTV Unfiltered, Camera Planet


Ron Seyb, Palamountain Professor of Government, scholar of American presidential administrations and US politics


States News Service, summarizing a lecture by Emily Bell of Columbia University, reports, “As priorities in journalism shift, user interface and accessibility is becoming as important as edi- torial content.”


FOLLOW THE MONEY


As newspapers have hit the financial skids, both they and alter- native news businesses are seeking ways to make journalism a going concern. Take the six-year-old Huffington Post, an all-on- line news service that aggregates other news providers’ content, curates it after a fashion, and posts it with links and comments. Its traffic rivals the New York Times’, though its staff is roughly a tenth its size, according to the Associated Press, which also re- ports that, between its growing advertising revenues and its low infrastructure costs, HuffPo turned a $30 million profit last year. Michael Marx notes that not everyone has a computer with Internet access. “There’s still a digital divide that stratifies us, and if your local city newspaper has to close down, what sources are left?” He recommends broadcast radio. For the most part, well-reported Web news can’t be provided free of charge indefinitely, and he’s doubtful about the partial pay walls for accessing the online versions of newspapers: “I think too many people will be content to read just the free portions and not pay for more thorough coverage. Or, since the Internet is built on redundant sites, they’ll go find the same shortened reports on Digg.com or other compilation sites.”


Marx also says, “I bristle when I hear National Public Radio using the BBC or newspaper reporters, rather than doing its own reporting. Big staffs are expensive, of course, but borrow- ing others’ work limits the range of perspectives in the news.” As Pro Publica explains, profit worries make it hard for media companies “to afford—or at least to think they can afford—the sort of intensive, extensive and uncertain efforts that produce great investigative journalism.” Along with straitened resources and staff layoffs, many have been coping with mergers and con- solidation. (Even the Huffington Post isn’t immune: it was pur- chased by AOL early this year.) That consolidation is what wor- ries Joanne Devine most. “With cable TV and the Internet, we have more news outlets, but that doesn’t mean more diversity, because so many are controlled by so few corporations. That’s not ‘the invisible hand’ of the marketplace at work; govern- ment agencies have been complicit. I saw a striking graph trac- ing the number of media-company owners decade by decade,


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FALL 2011 SCOPE 15


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