Journalists Discuss Fate of Old Media at Pomona

The Pomona Student Union welcomed

New York Times

reporter Richard Perez-Pea PO ’84,

Los Angeles Times

journalist Hugo Martin PO ’87 and Geneva Overholser, Director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, as they spoke about the displacement of print media by online media at “The Future of Journalism: The End or a New Beginning?” on Nov. 23.

Within the context of rapidly decreasing subscription numbers and folding magazines, the night’s discussion focused on the conflicts stemming from the influence of online media, including accountability, maintenance of journalistic standards, and new business models. Speaking about the occupation of journalism as a whole, all three panel members agreed that the fate of older media as we know it will be unclear for several years.

“It’s like when the television came along and everybody thought the radio’s dead,” Martin said. “They said, Who’s going to listen to the radio when the television’s there? And that seems to be what’s happening to print journalism. But I think there is still a need for what we do.”

Perez-Pea added that while the web may become the new major outlet for readership, the “DNA of what we do and how we do it, which has nothing to do with manufacturing and transportation, is already online.”

He said that the basic combination of accurate, relevant, skeptical and timely journalism can certainly survive without print newspapers through more sustainable and accessible online media.

Martin agreed, stating that the market will “spit out what is bad” and allow good journalism to endure past the age of print.

“There are opportunities to do journalism in a more democratized way. If people are straightforward about intent, funding, and sources, they may well be adding something important to the press,” Overholser said. “But they have to be transparent.”

Warning against the dangers of unanimity and the loss of hundreds of editorial voices, Perez-Pea said that “eventually new media will provide all the services old media is providing,” despite citing a congressional hearing in which writer David Simon warned that the next 10 or 15 years will be filled with unchecked government corruption. “There are just few people watching, fewer people who know where to watch,” Perez-Pea said.

Although many industry professionals believe baby-boomers will not give up their papers, which could sustain print media for an additional 20 to 30 years, they also remain aware that those subscribers will not provide enough readership to sustain the robust coverage of past years.

“Online readership is breaking records every week, but we’re also laying off people every week.” Martin said.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Perez-Pea about the likelihood of the adoption of a new user-supported revenue model, in which journalists would propose individual stories, which interested readers would fund.

As part of his closing remarks, Perez-Pea also commented on the tradition of openly biased news in many European countries.

“The way we do things in the United States is not normal around the world,” he said. “In France and certainly in Italy, each major news organization has its slant; has its political organization it’s aligned with. It’s not what I’ve grown up with, it’s not what I’ve worked with and it’s not what I’d prefer.” Perez-Pea said.

Overholser closed the evening’s discussion by advocating for transparency in journalism.

“I think opinionated news sources can be valuable,” he said. “We’ve got the National Review, the Nation, and as long as they’re transparent about it, they can be valuable.”

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