Survival of the News Media: Amid our Digital Device Dependence, is There a Future for Print?

Survival of the News Media: Amid our Digital Device Dependence, is There a Future for Print?


Good morning, I’m Allan Blum and I’m a family
physician at the University of Alabama. And the last time I was in this room was
five years ago when Emory Waters and I presented the opera that he
created drawing patients closer. So it’s good to be back.
Thank you for coming. Honored to be joined this
morning by, um, the, uh, former foreign correspondent and bureau
chief of Newsweek and one of the greatest authors of modern history,
Andy Nagorski, whose latest book is, they’re already lining up
at the Amherst bookstores. So he will be there a little later today.
And good. It’s, The Year Germany Lost the War, just
out. The copies just came in yesterday, right? Yeah. Okay. And uh, also joined by a David Michelmore who you
will remember from, those of us who read avidly every word or the Amherst Student,
the editor of the Amherst Student. And then a distinguished foreign
correspondent. And for many, many decades, at least, I don’t know how many, uh, the assistant managing editor
of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, David Michelmore. [inaudible]. So I wrote to Pete and Bill and Rob and
put in a little abstract for a session on a digital media addiction, which I call the Zombie apocalypse.
And I teach at the University of Alabama. About five years ago, I was asked to give a talk at the library
school graduation. And on my way over, you walk across this beautiful
quad and a yes, that’s right. George Wallace stood at the schoolhouse
door and now they make a big deal like, oh, this is already, look how we’re
recognizing that great historic moment, You know, like they did this
week, you know, when they
pass that great law. But, um, Don’t worry, I’m on the witness
protection program. So it’s, um, uh, I noticed something
and I’ve been noticing it, but as I walked across the
quad, everybody’s, you know, the all immersed, they’re all wired.
Nobody’s looking up. I could have been, I just, I could’ve walked nude across the
quad, not only with, nobody have noticed, a couple of them might have just
done this. I would have been on snapchat. But people are not looking up. So I coined the term that day a
new slogan for the library school, Looking up, for librarians. But it got me thinking about
maybe working with some students. And for the last few years I’ve
worked with an undergraduate student, Tom Gruchalla to look at his fellow
students in the undergraduate community at the university on the subject
of digital media addiction. And I submitted this abstract and rob
and his infinite wisdom said, well let’s, that’s good, but why don’t we combine it with these
distinguished journalists and David Corcoran, who unfortunately couldn’t be here today
and let’s blend it into a session on digital media and the addiction of today’s
generation with the survival of what we knew to be the grand print media.
And with that in mind, kind of a subset title came up with after
Rob’s idea to blend these sessions is the fading artists observation. Because I think that what my
contention is is that, and again, if Dick Aronson’s here, you know,
he’ll be like in the corner, always bringing us back
to optimism. But, but me, this isn’t one of those optimistic.
So I’m only on for about 12 minutes, but it’s not going to be the
happiest 12 minutes you’ve ever spent because I don’t see any way out of this.
And that’s right. Put Down Your Cell Phone and Oh, I forgot to say you’ve got to
turn them off for this cause. Um, and um,
I, I’ve always remembered this CBS
60 minutes story in 2003 call. The ayes have it and it’s
by professor John Still Go, who teaches Harvard students one of
those popular course he’s still teaching. And I’ll show you a little excerpt of
this 60 minutes piece and you’ll get the idea of why I thought it was fascinating.
And let me just, just play a little bit to see where
he’s coming from and how the power of observation, the art of observation
is fading. So let’s see, Eli, we gone area. We go. And if you’ve ever wondered what it would
be like to take a class at Harvard, you’re about to find out from one of
the universities most distinguished and popular professors.
But don’t worry. He doesn’t teach advanced calculus
or nuclear physics or ancient Greek literature.
In fact, if you are the kind of student who spent
all your time staring out the classroom window and professor John still goes
classes maybe just for you because looking around is exactly what he teaches.
Come on, let’s go down the alley. Alley is a good things. They’re good for
cats. They’re good for looking around. His title at Harvard is professor
in the history of landscape, but his classes don’t have much to do
with bushes and flowers and he’s much more interested in the urban echo system that
has been shaped and repaved over the centuries, like the vast
underground world beneath our feet. That’s a nice grading. I haven’t a clue
what’s down there. There’s a ladder. A lot of wires when still go took me
along on the same walk he takes his students through in Cambridge. It turned into a march through the
American industrial past Boston, elevated railway B. Here’s a relic from a long extinct
trolley company and there’s a memorial of sorts to the American steel industry. It probably has a casting
date on it someplace. 1968 cast in Alabama. And if you move along looking
at cast iron on streets, you’ll eventually come upon the
newest stuff that was cast in India. This is genuinely a wilderness.
He teaches the art of exploration, discovering the built environment, which can include everything
from architecture and
history to advertising and design. He introduces the students to
a method of discovering a hidden world. It’s always been right there
in front of their eyes. I start by showing of things that they
think they have seen and it turns out they haven’t seen the white Arrow that’s
on the side of every Fedex truck is a nice place to start.
Before they’ve learned to read Todd was, we’ll see the Arrow and I’ve asked
toddlers, you see the Arrow on the truck? We usually do.
So where’s the Arrow? The Arrow was between the lower
half of the capital e and the x right there, right there.
I’ve never seen it. Well, you have now. And the Nice thing
about it is you see, you’ve seen it. And usually when I pointed out, people
say, Oh, I’ve never seen that before, but of course it’s right there. Professor John still goes is the Arrow
is just one of millions of things that are right in front of our
eyes that we never noticed. Now all of this stuff is a world that
nobody sees or nobody thinks about. I think people see it,
but most people when they learn to read, stop looking around. I try very hard in this university which
select students based almost entirely on how well they do with words
and numbers to teach them that. There’s another way of knowing this
other way of knowing is simply using your eyes. The power of acute observation is
one of nature’s most useful tools for learning, but still go says the constant blur of
modern life is causing us to lose it over the years. I think we have, and I think
there are good reasons we’ve lost it. I mean I don’t tell people
to start looking in 360
degrees while driving a car, but if you were jogging along in a
horse and buggy a hundred years ago, you could look around and I have people
now who really have never been told to slow down, look around, take a nice walk. Instead they go jogging or running, do increase their heart rate and I tell
them why not look around while you’re doing it increased some kind
of rate in your mind. Harvard, he says that some of the finest students
in the world but he believes most of them are visually illiterate. Their academic lives had been programmed
around verbal and mathematical test. They will get them into a good college.
He says they lack a sense of spontaneity. I think they’ve missed a kind of
self guided non organized activity, non sports activity.
Growing up, the wandering around getting into things
and that the assumption seems to be nowadays is if a child isn’t in
an organized activity, the trial, there’s a criminal. Right. But I mean, as far as I can understand that most of
my colleagues I work with seem to have found their careers by
being slightly disorganized, lucking in to some, you know, which
is exactly what happened, which, well, I’ll give you an idea. You know,
the, I, I called professors still go, cause I’ve watched this for many years.
I’ve shown this to people. And the reason that it was
so important to me to show, he goes to remember the date
that this was done, 2003. So I had to ask him the question,
this is a, at least five years before our current
smartphone permeations. And I said, so you did this before smart phones
came up, what do you think of now? He could barely contain himself.
He went on for another half an hour. So think about it. Even before smartphones were talking
about a generation that had lost the power of observation. And, um, you know,
for many years I’ve, you know, when I’ve worked on the
tobacco issue and other issues, I’m like the guy in the
Old Philadelphia Bulletin, a advertising campaign in the New Yorker
where he’s trying to get everybody’s attention and they’re reading
the bulletin in Philadelphia. Nearly everybody reads the bulletins
or, um, the pool shark, you know, he’s trying to call it,
this is actually a pool shark there, but nobody’s paying attention
goes to their reading the bullet. It’s ironic that I would use
an example of the print medium. And yesterday I went to Hastings
and got seven newspapers and I said, I’m number one today. You know, there’s
a guy that gets about 10, you know, so there’s a few of us left and we’re
going to talk a little bit about that. But the concern that I have is this is,
is the, the everyday experience that, that I see all day long at the university
and you go into classrooms and a, and this is what you see a
quote from a book called, okay, are we all addicts now? Okay. In recent years,
I’ve noticed a growing contradiction, the author rides between the demands for
deep attention and criticality in the university and an increasing
number of hyper attentive students, obsessive Lee and compulsively checking
social media notifications outside the campus to the world appears to be
evermore populated by crowds of Zombie, like screen addicts. But that
was an unrehearsed, a picture of, of a classroom. I just,
my student, I just, let’s just take a picture of a random
classroom and in the medical field in which I am now, of course, you know, we’re not going to get physicians
talking about computer addiction when we ourselves are hooked on the
electronic medical record, which has the cyber language.
You know, a six month old comes in complaining
of leg pain. I mean, it’s, it’s astounding what it
translates into. And, uh, so a few years ago I saw this article
that talks about the proper way to bring your laptop, teach the med students to bring their
laptop in the room with the patient and, and do it the right way.
You’re not supposed to put
the laptop right in front of, you know, you’re supposed to
put it on the side like this. And as if that excuses bringing in a
machine to interfere with your computer physician relationship to your
computer patient relationship. And they loved it so much that they wrote
another article and they even named it, they called it the doctor patient
electronic health record triangle. This is the kind of crap that I have to
deal with an academia instead of talking about the patient they got, they got
promoted for this, you know, and um, so our, our talk was going to be the one I wanted
to do was call the Zombie Apocalypse or digital media addiction on campus.
And just to summarize, there’s lots of terms for
digital media addiction. These are all the different devices.
Uh, I didn’t put video games there, but those are the ones that we think
of the social media websites and the devices themselves. And let’s not
forget that there are some upsides, I’m sure that we could go through,
you know, all the good things. I know when my wife was traveling, I was good that she was able to go through
the forest with a cell phone and, um, when you were otherwise
unable to reach someone. So there’s a safety element there. You
can pay for things. Um, you can shop, you can have all the
wonders of medical care. Um, I didn’t you see that cartoon or the
dilemma whether he was going to recharge his cell phone or save the life of
the patient. Um, and you know what, let’s face it, there’s, everything has an
upside and a downside. But I think to me, the list of, of, um, of the downsides would be most concerning
if not more outweighing the upsides, cyberbullying. Um, if you saw the
wonderful exhibition on mental health, and so the students sharing their stories,
um, I don’t think that’s
helped by the social media, the social norms that people believe
are out there. The, the dieting, the, the Anorexia that’s related to people
looking at images on screens all day. Gaming addiction is now an
official disorder just as
ESPN is starting the new e sports channel. I mean,
it’s, it’s astounding. We’re going further and further
into this, into this, uh, what they call the
dopamine mining industry. That’s mining the dopamine that we’re
charging our brain with every time we click on something that we think
we like. And, um, as you’ll see, I think there’s diminished social
skills and there are mental and physical health problems already being
documented. For instance, um, the, the notion of, um, well these
are actually the other terms. Uh, there were several that I’ve
found, compulsive computer
use, virtual addiction, Internet addiction disorder,
pathological Internet use. These are all been bandied about.
And the question I’d raise is, is the internet just a medium to fuel
other addictions and compulsions such as gaming, gambling, shopping, sex and work? And the fact that it’s so difficult
to get yourself off of these. So these are some of the documented
health problems. You know, I love that. That’s supposed to be a,
an educational image. Um, but she’s doing the proper way to
walk around like a Zombie, you know? MMM. Computer Vision screen actually
does relate to eyestrain and end. It could be a permanent condition. Imagine steering at a one
inch screen all day long, it’s not going to do great
things for your eyes. Um, the, the element of a sleep quality,
if you’ve read this week, uh, the, the teenagers at 90% of teenagers are
going to sleep or their smartphones and they’re waking up several times at
night. Now, kids are using burner phones. Cause when the parents confiscate them,
they’ll go buy burner phones. It’s astounding. It’s, it’s,
it’s worse than you think. What’s the average high
school senior girl? How many hours a day is
she now on her smartphone? Oh, good. I don’t need to be Dick
Answers. They know it’s not that bad, but, but it’s, it’s, it’s closer. It’s getting closer to 12 hours a day of
waking up and that, you know, she’ll say, but no, that’s a lot of that is
school. It’s the hard thing to, to, to distinguish between educational and
work related legitimate uses and the non-work-related non-education uses. It’s that fine line of which
is going into the other, um, weight gain from being sedentary. We’ve added one hour of sedentary
behavior in just the last six years. One hour, all of us, one hour and
teenagers to one more hour of sitting, sitting six and a half hours a day now.
And um, it’s astounding what’s going on. Of course,
to my mind, and I’m sure rob was interested in
having me make the point of mental health issues. Depression is at its highest
level among teenagers. We thank now, especially among that age group.
Cyberbullying, exposure to graphic content
are not helping us. Um, it fosters avoidance of social
interaction. Those diagnosed with add, ADHD seem to be spending more
time on their devices. Uh, whether there’s an attention deficit
disorder or some distractability inherent, we don’t know. I think parental
relationships are part of that, but the Adhd has been associated
with and distractability in general. Um, this overall notion of
the loss of attentiveness, the night of the idea that
multitasking is legitimate. You know, we all think we can do it, but he turns at multitasking is
a myth we don’t accomplish. Uh, and on any objective measure what we think
we’re doing by a multitasking when we use our digital devices. And, uh, fortunately in Hawaii you can’t
cross a cross walk with the, uh, the digital device in your hand.
That’s the one little hopeful sign. And in France, the, uh, education minister has banned smartphones
in under ninth grade because the kids during recess, we’re sitting around
texting and not going out and playing a, we’ve heard of phubbing, you know, when
you’re yes, yeah, I’m listening. You know, when they’re really paying more
attention to the computer, um, and, and literally we all know
the, the how, the ravages of, of diminished intimacy and
this is not helping, um, the threat to autonomy that has to do
with the possessiveness of certain power Moore’s with their boyfriends
or girlfriends and being
in touch with them at all times and it’s affecting the
childhood development. And, uh, obviously, uh, the physical activity, the three things that I look at when one
of our residents comes and talks about Adhd is what about the parenting
situation? Uh, is there an intact family, has there been disruption? What’s their physical activity and what’s
their screen time? And, uh, here’s, here’s something, a classroom
in a college, the students
would write up, three, one group said,
you cannot bring your smart phones, the second groups that you can bring it, but you better not turn him on the third
group that you can use them as often as you want. So, which group did
best at the end of the semester once that didn’t have them? They did by
far the best. What was the second group? A tie. The point is, even if you just
have it out there and you’re, you know, it’s that fear of missing
out. So, uh, it’s, it’s astounding what we’re,
what we’re seeing already. So I call it a kind of anti social media.
Um, we’re really not getting to the civility
that I believe we once had here and the tested that is walk around
on most university campuses
and see if people do stop and talk.
I think fortunately in the last few days, maybe they’re on order to do
that to us. But, um, when, uh, when I’ve been here to give
talks, uh, during the school year, I haven’t sensed that this is a whole
lot different from the University of Alabama in terms of people
being wired. And, um, the, uh, the notion of moving
into our segway here, um, I love print and I grew up in, you’re in
New York where there were nine dailies. I often, I read every one to catch the different
way the baseball games were written about. And here’s Newsweek that used to be
advertised as fast factual and fair on, or was that great? What a great, you know, the physicality of just getting your news, Newsweek in the mail and opening
up and, um, and of course, what, who could be better than all the
news that’s fit to print. Um, and, and now, you know, we laugh at this, but it played a big role a couple of
years ago in an election. And, um, this is the kind of stuff that we
laughed at, but do you remember this? Let’s see if this works.
Can we, hey guys,
I’m back with another video. Let me see. I’m going to just see if I
can play this, does it, see if it puts, you know, this is from
the check, the check, the hey guys,
I scaled back with another video stead, but that was going to
be checked the tabloids. So many topic of today’s
video is being yourself, being yourself can be hard. And it’s like,
aren’t I always being myself and yeah, for sure. But being yourself is like not changing
yourself to impress someone else. A lot of people like call
me quiet or shy or whatever. People see this movie already.
See Eighth Grade Kayla Day, I don’t talk a lot at school,
but if people talk to me and stuff, they’d find out that I’m like
really funny and cool and talkative. And by the way, I like your
shirt a lot. It’s like so cool. [inaudible] well we could make great, Huh?
I said one more week of age. Great. Great. Yeah, that’s crazy. Yeah. Huh. Okay. So growing up can be a
little bit scary and weird. We will begin to explore these
changing bodies of yours. It’s going to be Lynn on free,
free. As always. Make sure to share it
and subscribe to my channel. Gucci, I think you’re so cool. Maybe you just
need to put yourself out there a little. I’m going to stop anything.
[inaudible] like I say one thing, I’m really like nervous all the time.
They try really hard not to feel that way, but you just need to face your fears and let people know the really, she just grabbed my phone.
How to charge you. Yeah. I mean sometimes I charge it to my phone.
I just, cause things are happening
right now doesn’t mean they’re always, can I happen who was in there? Just
sorry to my hopes and dreams, right. I wrote a complete bathroom and
I was your age. Really Great. You never know what’s next. And that’s what makes things
exciting and scary and fun. When did you get snapchat? What
grade? Fifth Grade. Fifth Grade. Well, I fell in love with
that movie and I hope that um, uh, you get the idea that, you know, this is unfortunately
what I think we’re facing. We’re in the middle of
this entirely new medium. I’d like to sort of turn it back to where
I grew up and what I fell in love with and wanted to be a journalist
like these guys too. But um, what do you think Andy? And,
and, and uh, Peter is there hope fact check? [inaudible] all right, well thanks. Uh, you
know, I share a lot of those. Yeah, those same impressions, but I think
they, I start out with two things. I think David would agree with me. We are not going back to the
hard copy age. I love hard copy. The one place, by the way, we’re
hard copies still works. His books, I mean there’s still a large
proportion of people who buy books. The trend towards more
ebooks as has really slowed. But yeah, first of all, I think
it’s worth reminding ourselves. I like to remind the students when I come
in to talk about here what it was like reporting and working as a journalist. My first job in that had anything to do
with journalism between my freshman and sophomore year here at Amherst.
I was a copy boy at the New York Times. And of course it was copyboy. Uh, and
my first job in the morning, I say, this is a little quiz for you,
is taking the glue pots off. Editor’s desk said taking
them to a back room, scraping off the congealed
crowd at the top, as, as during the glue pots and putting them
back on the editors desk. And, and I say, why was I doing that? And I get these
blank looks, you like lists, sniff glue. And I explained to you, where do
you think cut and paste comes from? Uh, and uh, and know that’s
when I started at Newsweek, my stories. And when they, when I heard
the war of the electric typewriter of, by my editor,
I knew he wasn’t just pencil editing, he was writing new things and, and then cutting and pasting and Bam,
uh, and uh,
so there was that whole thing. The whole nature of writing
and so forth has changed. Uh, and a lot of it I think for the better
in the sense that, you know, I used to, there’d be times I’d be, especially as a foreign correspondent in
places where it’s very hard to file our, get past past military
sensors and so forth. And now with the, you know,
it’s, it’s instantaneous. You don’t have telex machines, something
else that somebody, nobody knows. Nobody knows what they
exempt, what they were. Uh, and you didn’t have to hand carry
our fly out of a place sometimes to, to file a, you could get phone
connections, but there was an upside. And the upside was, especially working
for a news magazine, I’m like Ma, I go off say into somewhere
in a provincial Russian
city where there was almost no communication. Uh, and I, my editors knew I was out of pocket
and I had that two or three days, which in journalism is a real luxury
to just wander around, talk to people, observe and the serendipity factor
of things you learned was huge. And, and as opposed to going in
and trying to get that quick quote, a bit of a bit of information, that’s
where I think we lose out quite a bit. And then the internet came and,
and Newsweek of course had its websites. So you had more frequent filing and
there were, there was an upside to that. You know, one of the worst things that a news
magazine for instance was on Tuesday, I got a scoop. Well, the magazine
closes on Saturday, you know, and I have a story nobody else,
none of my colleagues have, but by Thursday, Friday, they’ve
all got it. And nobody, I say, Oh, I had that first. Well, no, no, that
didn’t happen. Didn’t impress anybody. Uh, so, but the problem with the economic model
of journalism just has been transformed and imploded for many publications,
including like Newsweek. Uh, and there are all
sorts of reasons for that. But first of all, you do not the advertising dollars
that used to go to the big newspapers, the three TV networks,
the city newspaper. Yeah. There was a pretty clear many for an
advertiser and they pick one from this column and one from the news magazines,
one for network and so forth. And we, you know, operations could have networks
of correspondence in the
u s and abroad and real bureaus and editors and, and
researchers, fact checkers, uh, all these things.
But then the menu just, just became so huge. First there
was cable TV and then the Internet. I was, I was once with a guy. Yeah. When I was living still
living in New York, I shared a taxi and he said he’s
selling advertising. And he said, well, I can sell advertising for it.
Says I get an order. I want to get to get women who are
between 35 and 40 with two kids. And so I, I get a slice of this
website, a slice of this cable channel, a slice of this new newspaper.
Nobody gets much. And so bureau’s began to close and nobody, and also publications like Newsweek
can and figure it out. How do we, we even get any revenue from the Internet. At first it was all free except for like
the Wall Street Journal was quite smart and putting a payroll a wall right away
and getting readers to, to accept that, but their clientele was
more willing to do it. So all of these things created a
problem and that’s when things began. Yeah. Their success of bureaus
that I was in, that began to like, the door was slamming shut every time
I’d left the bureau, it say it wasn’t me. Uh,
and, but as much as I thought this was
a problem of our age, uh, you know, I thought the 70s,
late seventies, 80s and 90s were beginning of 90s were
a pretty good time for journalists. But when I was researching my book on
Hitler Land About Americans in Germany in the twenties and thirties,
I ci, I at one point I figured I got a tally
for how many American journalists that were based in Berlin in, in the mid thirties when of
course Germany was a big story. Someone want to hazard a guess how many
fulltime American journalists where they are then how 55 zero can you imagine
anywhere in the world now where you’d have 50 American fulltime correspondence
for all these kinds of publications? You know, every city had two or
three really serious newspapers. There were radio, radio,
radio correspondence, there were news agencies that don’t exist
anymore. And you know, delving into, I even delved in, I found one of the
correspondence, uh, expense reports. It was very impressive. They really, yeah, yeah. There was fake news
even then. Yeah. Um, but yeah,
the expense accounts. But so the question is what is, what is what is due first of
all, to me, I don’t really, I mean I love print. I love to see somewhere like you holding
out a newspaper and you know that Alan will get eight newspapers
are, and in my case, you know, like the fact physical magazines. But if you can have a model
which supports good journalism, how that journalism can consume
doesn’t matter to me that much. Uh, but this has failed.
And uh, and the question is what’s,
what’s the formula? And then,
so where were you going? And just, I’ll just end it here.
I think one reason why journalism, the whole idea of journalism and the idea
of what we’d used to think in America, I’ve sort of objective or at least
balanced journalism in a genuine sense has disappeared into this cauldron of, of of of opinion a stream of opinion. Why is there so much opinion
and so little reporting? Uh, there was a study in Google news of
a Google news one day back already, 10,
12 years ago. Why the Poynter Institute of Journalistic
Institute and they looked at 14,000 stories churned through Google news that
that that day as it’s an aggregator and they trace those 14,000 stories
to 24 or 25 news events. So most of the stories were just sort
of playing off stuff that maybe someone like the Pittsburgh Post Gazette or
the AP or the New York Times or are are maybe a news mag and he had actually
reported and everything else was just sort of repackaging and that’s,
yeah, and when I try to try to tell young
people is find a model where at least you are going out and doing that 26 27 story
and that’s where we’ve got a problem. Because opinion as cheap as you saw that
at Newsweek they began closing foreign bureaus of began in prayer. Hiring more people could write opinion
pieces just from their desks and therefore, and then one,
what happens is you begin, if you rely on in your age,
on your readership to give, because of the power of your opinion, you begin to play to the
preconceptions over your audience. And that happens on the right, it happens on the left and everything
becomes very predictable in the whole idea of a counter intuitive story that
makes you rethink your assumptions, which we’re used to be the
goal, uh, seems to disappear. So that’s where I think we need a new
model and there are some new models coming up,
but we can get into that. But I think we’re in a huge transition
phase and, and, uh, you know, keep buying those eight newspapers, but I’m afraid that the number
of them will dwindle. Yeah. I th I come from print mostly and,
uh, our paper has had a, in
Pittsburgh has had a, uh, a downward slide for probably
30 or more years. Um, we didn’t,
we never knew where our subscribers were. Um,
we didn’t know what they wanted. And so it was always a guessing
game. And, uh, the, the, the, the print edition. So, and, and we’ve gone from 220,000
in 1992 to 80,000 now, although that, they don’t make that number
two public the way they used to. Um, I, you know, the train has
left the station on newspapers. Um,
there’s only going to be a few left. Papers like mine are down
to five days a week. Uh, lots of towns like Anarbor
they disappeared altogether. They’re disappearing all over
the place. I think, uh, uh, the son of our friend of ours works, I don’t know if they’re
still a paper in Dayton, but he’s a reporter that does just online.
Um, so we’re out of there. So the next question is how are
you going to produce news and, and,
and pay for it. And I think newspapers have a
huge advantage because they have, they have small armies, um,
that can go report things, whereas opposed as opposed to all these
other news sites don’t have an army. They have an army in Washington, but they
don’t have an army in Pittsburgh. Um, I just think in the end,
I think it’s really interesting what, what the hell is going to happen
in the future. Uh, we did, our paper did very well. You know, I
haven’t been in the newsroom in 10 years, so I don’t know much, but our newspaper
did very well on covering the, the shootings at the
synagogue at tree of life. And the way we did well at it is we
sent an army of reporters out there, which TV can’t do, uh, which the
Internet really can’t do on its own. And they did a heck of a job and they
got a Pulitzer and it was well deserved. That’s the first Pulitzer
we’d gotten in years. Um, so there, there’s that, there was a were,
so we’re done for, so how do we do it? I, you know, I don’t have a clue how you make
money. When I read the Times what I do, I never made any money. So that’s why
we’re, that’s why we’re journalists. Yeah. The only other guys who were stupid or
where all you teachers out there are you hating the less money than collegiate.
And I want to salute all those guys. So we have so many teachers. And
that was, that was great. Um, I don’t know,
I don’t know what an engagement editor is. Maybe if I were still at the paper,
I’d be the engagement editor. The only engagement that I wrote for a
weekly paper when I was in high school and I did the weddings and uh, and I did once have a bride in an a frame
dress and then they didn’t let me do the weddings anymore after
the a frame dress episode. Um, you know, I, there’s a lot of things you like about
that. And for me, the way it is now, I check my,
I check the times and the post all day. And that’s pretty much what I
did. Nothing Eric Austin, um, because these are, these are big organizations that have
a lot of smart reporters, I think. And I would do the journal,
but I haven’t paid for yet. Um, and that’s of course that’s what
I did is that as a newspaper Guy, I’d get into the office and I start
screening through what the heck was out there on the AP. And when I worked for the
AP, of course it was the same thing. We, we, uh, we, the tickers were going all day
long. So I always knew what was going on. I was never having to wait till the next
morning to find out what the news was. Um, so the, I think I love online stuff. Um, I think the train is Alan’s concerns or
the train’s left the station on that. MMM. We’re going to be, there’ll be
some big news organizations left, but I don’t think there’ll
be a local papers. I don’t know how you’re going to do
local news if you don’t have a local news organization that makes money. MMM. You don’t have enough to pay the salaries.
I think sports is another, well, when I had another little point
that was maybe less math, kind of boring, but the, one of the weird things that I
wish we had some of our journalists here, like Tom Boswell, you know,
the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful sports writer for the Washington
Post who could tell about the demands put on writers like himself to be
in so many different kinds of media. I think boss is probably because I
don’t see him on other kinds of media. He’s probably avoided it.
But it’s must be trying to have to, um, to have to blog, to have to tweet, to have to appear on the cable news to
have to write your story. And I was like, wait a minute. Sometimes
the video, your story, video your story and then you
have to report it. Wait a minute. What does one do you do with the reporting
when you have to do all this other shit? MMM, I never even liked the worry
about giving photo assignments. I thought that was an imposition
on my reporting. So that was, that was frowned on. Um, well
there you are. I don’t know as any, I think it’s,
um, I’m not, I’m not unhopeful. Um, I think there’s,
uh, there’s, I’m not pessimistic. I think that, uh, the decline
in newspaper readership, my kids are in their forties.
They never bought a newspaper. They’re very political. Um,
they’re very up to date, never have they own newspapers. So this has been a long decline and you
can’t put plenty of it on the Internet. All together. I mean, I think
that’s all I have to say again. I mean I just had a on that, that,
that, I mean the generational thing. I’ve often taught a writing
class and when I started to uh, to do it,
it was very easy to say for instance, explained the basic
components of a newspaper. What’s the difference between news,
News analysis, personal column editorial?
Yeah. You’d see it in the geography
of that physical newspaper. Well now nobody seen the geography of
the physical newspaper and even more in that generation and it becomes much
harder to explain and on the web that at that that sort of disappears that whole
set of distinctions and creates that blending together. I helped start a number of
foreign editions for Newsweek
in the last part of my job. And one thing I would try to
do in your, in Europe for instance, most most publications are pretty clearly
identifiable as more left or right, you know, more affiliated with the Social Democrats
or the Christian Democrats in Germany or whichever. And I’d say, yeah, when we used to doing startup is in some
cases they say, well, what are we? I said, you want to keep your readers guessing
because you should be able to tell a story and let the facts tell the story
in your analysis for all flow from the facts rather than the other way around. Now I think we’ve gotten more into that
European model in part because of the medium. And again, because
of that economic model, everybody’s struggling to hold
on to their base of readers. And that, that, that was always
a question for us is what, how do you get people to be
addicted to the newspaper? Um, and it’s true, I think people, uh,
people in newspapers eventually, uh, got addicted. I got addicted reading
the comics with my dad at lunchtime. He’d bring the Boston Herald home and
give me the comics when I was little, uh, other guys and in our sports department. And I remember them saying they got
addicted reading the box scores. I think a lot of you and people
still buy the paper for the puzzle. So,
you know, we always had to balance when we were
trying to figure out how to reduce costs, how to keep those things, a stock pages.
When I was business editor at one point, that was a great in the
90s. Great. Who are, when we would try to reduce
the stock pages and you know, do only some of them or don’t, don’t do the mutuals are now they’re gone
altogether because it didn’t make any sense in the nineties either. People were not treating based on
what your printed in the paper, those were old prices already.
People could get newer prices. Um, so they’re all gone. Well, you know, I think
where was I going with print? Print is always has always sold ads.
In other words, the New York Times would have an article
on the inauguration next to a Braun girdle out.
I mean, you and when there was a plane crash or
you’d never have a twa ad in the paper that was called an insert order.
If there was yeah. One once it didn’t work.
Didn’t work out. Yeah. If, if there was a, uh,
a report on smoking, the
cigarette companies would say, we won’t pay for any ads if you run one. So we know that that print
media was always been a vehicle. But when John Hockenberry said something
in 1994, I was visiting the Newseum, it stayed with me.
He said, the Internet I predict is
gonna make people like us news, meaning that we’re going to look
for what we only want to read. And I think that’s where the internet
does make a big difference and where it has been, I think destructive. One
quote and then we’d love to open it up. There’s very little critical discussion
in from that same book or we all addicts now. There’s been very little critical
discussion in mainstream culture about the gamification of everything which replaces
individual agency with a kind of soft coercion,
variable schedules, a reward or one of the most powerful
tools that companies use to hook users levels of dopamine surge when
the brain is expecting a reward. Introducing variability multiplies the
effect. Creating a frenzied hunting state. When Barbara Lands on Pinterest, not only does she see the images she
intended to find, but she’s also served a multitude of other glittering objects
before she knows that she spent 45 minutes scrolling. Let’s hear
from you. What do you think? I want to make one other point.
Newspapers, it’s,
it’s a process of filtering. It always has been the reporter
of about what’s news. Um, and the reporter decides, well that’s
newsworthy. It goes up the step. The editor decides that’s
newsworthy and it, and the, and then the editor of
say of the front page, I would say that’s more newsworthy than
this. So I’ll put this on the front page. I still think that’s what
news organizations and big
newspaper organizations do. Um, you’re going to, people will
argue that the times is so anti Trump, they can’t get out of their own way,
but I still think they have editors and, uh, uh, and they try to figure out
what’s, what’s really important. Um, and that’s what we
do. And so I, I don’t, I don’t really buy the notion
that there nothing better, you know, there, um, no,
there is no real news. There are plenty of good reporters
out there, the number of, but the number of organizations
that feel them has, yeah. Oh yeah. It’s gone down and the number of editors
has gone down in many cases. Yes. But there are new models. I’ll just say
very quickly before we turn it over here, you know, look at somebody
like political or even NPR, which of course is a totally different
market model. Politico has just, I happened to know the guy who’s taking
it over. He’s surprised, surprise, a good generation younger
than us. And He, uh, they, they are finding ways to do
local or very specialized news. They do a general news thing, but
they, the way they make money, as I understand it,
is they do really special reports for, it can be forever and conferences for
companies from Union of municipalities and, and yeah, I’m not
sure how that’s gonna work, but I think it’s the next generation
is going to have to figure that out. But they are feeling,
I’m astonished. They, he started a political in Europe with a
huge staff and Brussels in London and a network of correspondence that’s beginning
to be quite impressive and doing good work. So there are new ways of,
of doing it. It’s just, I think, you know, you got to have a totally creative mind
in terms of the business sense and in the editorial sense to make that happen. So you wouldn’t rule out going students
to go into journalism? No, but you know, do so at your own peril. I mean, yeah.
No, I mean, I mean, do it, I always said, even in the days when it, when David and
I were just starting NEA say, should it, should we follow this path? If
you, if you value, you know, security stability, uh, probably not. You know, you’ve gotta be able to,
it’s a crap shoot in journalism. Even in the old days it was now even
more so, and you have to be able, you have to be able to do things that I’m
sure David and I no longer know how to do.
I can, I couldn’t do the number of multi
tasking presentation things, editing my own video and so forth that a
lot of these young journalists now have to do. Yeah, sure. Thank you for your comments.
Could I ask a question about, um, journalism in a politicized time
with, on the one hand concerns about
fake news. On the other hand, uh, is Julian Assange. What is news and what concerns,
if any, do you have about a signage and
Wikipedia in effect being charged with espionage? And for those of
us whose hearing going today, as for you guys to speak
directly into the mic. Oh,
Robert, you get right to the point
you want to go ahead. Thanks, David. Yeah, no, I mean, I mean I think there’s always been a
tension in terms of leaks information. It’s one thing for, for
leaks. I think journalists, you know, and we’ve all hunted for
leaks. We’ve all cultivated sources. I think if you’re working in a post
where you have access to classified information and you, you
have, have, have, have taken, it made a commitment not to
divulge this information. You do so at your own peril and I don’t
think it’s, and if somebody gets to, gets in trouble or loses their
job or worse for that, you know, it’s not that that’s something
that that’s a, you know, it’s,
it’s part of the course of doing business. One thing I did try to do always,
and particularly for instance, reporting from the Soviet Union in the
old days where everything was considered national security information
is tell the people, and it’s one thing to deal with people
who are openly dissidents or trying to fight the system and they knew that the
risks and they felt that at least if they dealt with a western
correspondent like me, they will have, the authorities will know that
if something happens to them, somebody else will know about it.
And they took a calculated risk. But there were often people who sort of
walked in or where, who I’d meet and say, I want to tell you about this, that and the other and our do this
and will you cover it? For instance, I had a couple of women saying, uh,
their husbands were in the gulag. What would you think if we went out on
Red Square and put up posters, you know, held up posters, a, will this be covered
in the western press? In other words will, well,
first of all, they would have been swept up by the
KGB in a matter of seconds I say. And I said,
I don’t think there’s any chance, almost no chance that it will be covered
by the western press because they won’t see it. And I didn’t want to do
anything to encourage them to
do something like that. Uh, but assigned judge, I think
stealing, there’s still over. Yeah. Stealing information,
a judge and just dumping information. I think that’s, that is still, yeah. Good. Wasn’t going to be swept up
by the Russian authority. No. And he was not going to be
equipped. I have it. Yeah. That’s a totally different case.
And uh, you know, there is, there is, yeah. It’s just like, yeah, if you walked into an office and
grab things off people’s desks, uh, that there are things which we, and there
should be consequences for. And, uh, and then if you receive that information, then there’s a whole different next layer, whether do you just dump stuff as versus
buzzfeed did with some of this stuff? Like with uh, what
Peter, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d be a PTA.
Yeah. The Steele dossier, which was anybody who knew anything
about Russia, I would say this is really, really sketchy. Yeah.
Uh, and uh, you know, do you say just because you have it, do you publish at all and without any
create, without any critical thinking, any context? Uh, so
that’s the part that’s, that’s really a problem I think for
news organizations. Others have done, been more systematic and you know,
having editors who say, we will, we will, we will consider putting this out and
maybe not mentioning these names or are this particular situation and trying to
at least establish some context for it. Yeah. I think, yeah. Well, I just wanted to
add to that the, uh, the most important thing for newspapers
they have is a bs detector and some things RBS, like Andy was saying on the
part of that, uh, the pee tape, that was, if you knew Russia, you knew that
that wasn’t true. And that’s what, that’s what’s lost Mike, you just said, yeah, don’t believe the pee tape. Oh No. What I’m saying is the most important
thing for any newspapers to have good bullshit detectors and that’s
the whole system. And, and the, like Andy was saying that the tape of a, from the dose ea was clear to
some people that that was baloney. And so you don’t do it.
Um, you just got to have your antenna
up all the time. But you do know, my name is Gerald Riley. I’m here with a fast fading
class of 1949 [inaudible] for our last [inaudible], we were not a crowded in
the dorm with the route. I was involved in newspapers
for 40 years and two quotations, uh, have set up as a book
ends of that industry. Thomas Jefferson famously said you had
been the choice between a government without newspapers are newspaper
throughout our government. Our unhesitatingly choose the ladder
to a bad guy to journalism students for years. Then the more recent one was when the
whole lot cost is over shop trembling, what is restated? Two species will be found to have survived
cock Rochers and weekly newspapers. And I’m a great believer
in news magazines, totally familiar with everything in the
industry from Ganette in one paper and so on. And so I work with Moo Dot Murdoch when
he first came into the country and so on. And so I’ll give you one number of show. How fast is faded easier
number at his peak, the New York Times company was using
600,000 metric tons of newsprint every year. Just a little below a hundred
thousand today the money has gone. We could lick the Telegraph,
Radio, television, cable,
Internet killed us, gone. There’s just no way to replace it.
It’s not the same. It’s information of a sword. No
contacts, no proportionality, no pallets and no nuance. But that
generation, my children’s children, that’s enough. They got the thing
that I got enough, it isn’t enough. And the count two will be ill
served by the absence of newspapers. I’m afraid which your fast fading cause
it just isn’t the same on what the whole country was planned for.
That’s what the all amendment was about. But thank you. I came in lady and we
just about this before, I’m sorry, say that there was, there’s was nothing more fake news
than the newspapers of the early 19th century. They were the newspapers of the
early 19th century after Jefferson. They were fake news.
Absolutely. Completely. So I want to go back back to something David touched
on earlier about um, uh, the traditional role in newspapers.
Certainly in the Internet age. They told us what was important. So whether it was the bombing of
Cambodia or the civil rights movement and managing editors, they editorial staff
decided for the readership as curators. Really what was, what was vital news for us to
know now in the Post-internet Age, a lot or a lot of the news
gathering online is driven
by audience and metrics in terms of they are out there,
are measuring what is successful, what is being clicked on, what are people reading and the amount
of information they get from that is tremendously detailed and
as you know, affects, um, what we see the Mike question
she had the panel really is, is what is your general feeling about
audience metrics being used to decide what news is important?
In other words, is that a good thing that the audience
is deciding what news is important versus the managing editor? Yeah. Okay. I was in on a hundreds of,
uh, leave it at that. Yeah. Hundreds of front page meetings and
this is what the decision would be every day. And it was never, we
could never measure. We have, we would have focus groups and it would
always come out that people really like local news. Well, it turns out
if you overfocus on local news, if people don’t read it,
um, and the fight was always what do people, what people should know,
what people want to know. And we never, we could never resolve that because we
didn’t really know what people wanted to know.
I don’t, there are all kinds of metrics and
our newsroom now I’m told there’s a, whenever there’s this chart Chartbeat
so your stories up there and you can, you know, the number of clicks. Um,
at the, at one of the papers I’ve, I’ve read that they, people were laid off based on the number
of clicks you have to get a number of clicks. But the curating I think
still goes on, um, the way, the times, and these are the ones I read
because I think they are curated. Um, they do put what they think is the most
important story for me to know on top. Um,
I always as I was a stick, I was an old fashioned dinosaur on, I really wanted to tell people what was
the most important story in the world that day in column six and everybody else,
a lot of the other people would say, oh,
nobody cares about bay route. Well I care about Beirut and people
ought to care about Beirut. But that was, it was almost a syndrome in newspapers
in the Oh that Beirut civil war did last a long time. But uh, yeah, I I still think you need to get curated
news. I think there is curated news. Um, and that’s, you know, that, that’s why I depend on the papers.
Big papers too. That’s what the hell they’ll survive
is with curated news and just, yeah, just a quick addendum to that. If you looked at when this first started
versus when Newsweek first got his website, I remember talking to her, the
woman who ran the website and she said, you know, we now we can measure
things we could never measure before. They couldn’t measure exactly how
many people read your stories and, and that has its good side. But the bad side is if you want to
be sure that you get a lot of clicks, you know you put hot cheerleaders
in the in the headline and and, and you do a that, but that doesn’t mean you’re
going to fill up the, the, the website or the magazine
or the newspaper with those
kinds of stories and I think the curated, curated part of it
is still very important and that you, you know, there the notion of just
clicks versus credibility now. Now I think both, I visited the Times newsroom
in the journal newsroom
in the last few years with students and they all
have those somewhere that, that board with all that. But I think the trick is not to
become too obsessive about it, but it’s there and it’s got a,
and it does play a big role. One thing, we will wrap
it up just a minute. The, I’m told that in this attention economy, that’s what the world of the
cyberspace is called now. There are in the attention economy that
there were upwards every time you’re online, every single time you are online
thinking that you’re doing a one to one communication or checking Facebook, there are upwards of a
thousand individuals out
there who have access to your data and we’ll have access and we’ll use
your data to create whatever it is they want to reach you with. The um, John, we just want to thank you
for your question two and
hope that people will attend your session of this afternoon at three
o’clock on, uh, what’s it called now? Hear this. Okay. Um, and we
do have time for one or two. Uh, one more. Got a Mike, go right ahead. Um, I live in Canada and Toronto
still has three daily papers. I now live in Victoria. There are so many print magazines that
one of them titled Itself Yet another magazine.
And when I traveled to Europe, my impression,
and Andy probably has a much better read, is that the situation for print media
is not as bad in Europe and it doesn’t seem to be as bad in Canada
as it currently is in the
u s and my question is why is that the case? We’re trendsetters.
No, I mean that is true.
When we started, we were starting these new print editions
of Newsweek in the early two thousands, uh, and people are saying why, you know, it’s clear the trends going the
other way for a while. For instance, the Newsweek condition in Poland,
which I started at a certain point, had more new stance sales than
the US edition of Newsweek. Yeah. It got to that point. Uh,
but the editors told me, you know, this is going to change.
These things tend to migrate. And now I was there a couple of months
ago and met with one of the former editors and, and he said, yeah, we are printed edition has
gone down the advertising, it’s tougher.
We see all the same trends. It just takes awhile. Yeah. Lamone
just announced a bunch of layoffs. Uh, so, you know, I think there is a, maybe a stronger and
stronger identification was
traditional big publications like La Moaned or uh,
yeah, in Germany [inaudible] and
various like various publications, but it’s not going to prevent
the same process from happening. And that’s why, for
instance, political Europe, I think one of the ways they introduced
this new product called Political Europe, uh, painting a spinning off political us
has been surprisingly successful because they’re beginning to fill some
of the gaps that the, that the, the local European publications
are beginning to open up. Uh, so it’s,
it’s, and I think in Canada it will
probably be moving in that direction. I, you know, I, it’s a, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be
new publications or some others won’t reinvent themselves,
but they’re going to have to do something. They can’t just assume
that they can maintain that
position for a very long time. I want to thank you for coming and
you can turn your smartphones back on. I hope you won’t. Um,
but let’s give it up for David and Andy.

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