Sunday, September 11, 2005

ASSIGNMENT: A senior editor looks at the future of news and worries


Please click to and read for Tuesday this piece by Merrill Brown, who was the founding editor in chief of and is a former executive with RealNetworks. He presently is a New York-based media consultant and was recently appointed national editorial director of the News 21 project, a part of a journalism initiative launched this spring by the Carnegie and Knight foundations. This commentary is based on a longer essay published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Carnegie Reporter. THIS article appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005 edition of The Seattle Times, one of two dailies in Seattle, Wash. I have excerpted a series of questions which Brown poses in his essay. We will discuss these on Tuesday.


The Knight Foundation and the the Carnegie Corp. launched a major new "fix journalism" initiative in May. Below are two stories about it -- one fromthe New York Times and one from Editor & Publisher. Merrill Brown,formerly of MSNBC, who is at Carnegie now, is heading it.

Here's a link to the NYTimes story:
And to the Chronicle of Higher Education story:
Here's the Carnegie home page on the initiative:

-- bill


Who will cover lengthy, costly national political campaigns if traditional news organizations can't afford to? Who will cover international conflict or health crises around the world? Bloggers? Columnists? Organizations like Google or Yahoo that may be assembling news but are fundamentally technology companies?

Already news organizations are straining to cover the Middle East and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What if over the next 10 years large news organizations and the public companies that control them move from just limiting their international coverage to abandoning it altogether?

This discussion, therefore, isn't simply about newspapers, broadcasters or public companies facing marketplace challenges. The questions raised by the young people abandoning the news go to the heart of how we'll learn about the complex world we live in and make informed decisions about its future.

Can storytelling evolve to include more interactivity, citizen participation, younger newsmakers and the use of music, innovative pacing and more engaging graphic and presentation elements? Is the growing movement toward citizen journalism the creation of publications written by activists without news training a notion inviting chaos and irresponsibility, or a new level of civic engagement?

At universities and think tanks, research on these critical topics is limited. It is time to tie together the disparate worlds of research, education and news in order to maximize intellectual capability and limited resources.


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