With Forbes Magazine cutting a fourth of its staff, the New York Times laying off 100 workers, and Time Magazine letting go of 500, the future of news seems anything but certain—an assessment not entirely dispelled by a panel on journalism held last night at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The speakers at the forum, titled The Future of News, agreed that in order for newspapers to survive the economic downturn, there will be an inevitable shift from printed news to more online mediums.
Alex S. Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner and director of the Shorenstein Center, said it was important to maintain an “institution”—whether printed or online—as a credible source for up-to-date information on local and world happenings.
“These institutions are important, and if they disappear, are going to create a terrible vacuum in communities,” Jones said.
Due to the economic crisis, online news sites have become a cheaper alternative to printed papers for many newspapers who wish to continue operating.
While the panelists agreed that the focus on online news is not a negative shift, they stressed that the quality of journalism needs to stay the same.
According to Jeff Howe, a current Nieman fellow and contributing editor of Wired magazine, the increase in online news has also led to an increase in amateur journalism or “crowdsourcing” through mediums such as online blogs and Twitters. Howe said that these forms of news should not replace professional journalism.
Martin Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe, echoed Howe’s point.
“Journalism is sending professionals out to find out what is going on, [who] verifies documents, is fair and honest, and broadcasts it in a forum that is accessible. This does not happen with user generated news,” Baron said.
Despite the loss of jobs in the media industry, Jones said he believes the down turn is a good thing.
“Newspapers have become more efficient,” Jones said. “There are opportunities to keep these institutions alive, and hopefully it happens.”
Christopher J. Hollyday ’11, the organizer of the forum and chairman of the forum committee on the Student Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics, said the event was a valuable jumping-off point for future discussion.
“The news needs to come from important news sources, and recently we are seeing a shift to online, from sources that may not be credible,” said Hollyday, who is also a Crimson editorial editor.
Student attendees said that the forum provided a fresh perspective on the future of news.
“It was very interesting to hear the opinions of the important people in the field, and their optimism for the printed news in this tough economic time,” said David M. Hafferty ’13.
An earlier version of the Nov. 3 news article "Journalists Discuss Future of Media" ran an incorrect quote from Boston Globe Editor Marty Baron, which referred to journalists as 'semi-professionals.' In fact, Baron said that "Journalism is sending professionals out to find out what is going on, [who] verifies documents, is fair and honest, and broadcasts it in a forum that is accessible."