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The Carletonian

The Future of News

<rleton hosted “The Future of News” forum yesterday. Mediated by Professor Michael Griffin, the panel featured five Minnesota based journalists from different sectors of the professional sphere. The topic of their conversation—the future of journalism.

The topic of this forum derives from the changing trends in journalistic form. Increasingly, people look to the internet rather than print publications as their primary sources of news. What are the implications of these changes?

Currently, there are few models of internet based news cites that mirror the structure of a print newspaper—a form considered the epitome of “old” journalism. Several of the panelists are working towards creating a new and functional model that can serve as an alternative to print publications.

Panel members included a variety of noteworthy talents each reflecting a different niche of the profession. Erick Black, a former reporter for the Star Tribune now writes his own blog, Eric Black Ink ( He described his motivation for moving away from print journalism as an effort to work outside of the existing conditions of journalism. In print, he says, “the limitations of time, space and voice” prevented him from writing what he truly wanted to write. He finds this experience within a new medium an “exhilarating experience.”

Jeremy Eggers, author of Good News, Bad News founded the Twin Cities Media Alliance and maintains the Daily Planet website ( billed as a site that provides “Local News for Global Citizens.” Also a former Star Tribune reporter, Eggers identifies his project as a collaborative effort between media professionals and citizen journalists.

Matt Thompson is the Deputy Web Editor at the Star Tribune and served as the project manager for the “Politically Connected” website that will serve as an adjunct to the news content and be a space for “news junkies” to keep appraised of Minnesota politics.

Erica Mauter is a leading blogger on Metro Blogging Twin Cities, an effort that features citizen and community based contributions to news. Mauter does not have a professional background in journalism but blogs as an effort to create an enhanced community experience.

Brian Lambert runs “The Rake,” a blog that covers the media news in the greater Twin Cities area. His blog targets a type of reader who seeks both the facts of the news and an interpretation of the news. He aims to help his readers “figure out what in the hell this all means.”

Central to their discussion was the concept of old journalism versus new journalism. The old model is the newspaper. A pertinent question becomes, “are newspapers dead?” At its peak of popularity, 120 percent of U.S. households were newspaper subscribers. Today, that number has dropped to only 40 percent. Black cites a shift in generational trends as contributing to this change in readership. News has not succeeded in cultivating a generation of newspaper subscribers.

So what is the status of print journalism today? Corporate consolidation of news outlets has placed significant economic pressure on newspapers especially. The attitude of publicly owned newspapers has become that of a business with the major goal being to increase profit margins. A newspaper must increasingly respond to its stockowners but with damaging effects on the quality of the newspaper. In an effort to increase profit margins, newspapers have had to make significant budget cuts; this means less staff and in most cases, a heavier reliance on advertising.

While the advertising model allowed many reporters, budget limitations create a significant problem for news reporting. “We don’t have an economic model in sight that would explain who is going to be paying the salaries of reporters” Black said. Lambert argues that the product becomes “less attractive to the audience” as a result. “Print version [of newspapers] will be gone within ten years,” he predicted.

An alternative has developed to “professional reporters.” Mauter described the concept of crowd sourcing that has developed in the blogosphere. With crowd sourcing, members of the local community act as citizen journalists to report on local issues. She used the example of the 35 W bridge collapse. Citizen journalists sent images, video and first hand accounts of the event to create a story then available through a central blog site. Mauter lauds this format as a way to provide the reader with a comprehensive perspective of the event and one that creates a complete picture.

What has been the function of the print newspaper specifically that has secured its position in modern journalism? Eggers explained, “Newspapers existed before journalism.” Its goals extended beyond being a news source. The newspaper had a “civic mission of upholding democracy” he said. Will these emerging sources of news also accommodate this goal? It is difficult to determine how the function of journalism will develop.

Thompson also acknowledged that the “newspaper has ceased being the prominent vehicle for news delivery.” But with the end of the print newspaper, Thompson says, people will likely “assume…we will have lost a paradigm.” Readers generally consider newspapers the objective source of news. Claims of objectivity can be misleading in this context—objectivity tends to limit analysis and perspective. Of this model, Thompson asked, “Should it survive?”

Without a universal bureaucratic structure, internet news sources face questions of accountability and credibility. The reader takes an active role in holding internet news sources accountable. Eggers explains that the “public is serving as a source of accountability.” The values of print newspapers are present if through non-traditional mechanisms. Mauter said that the writer of the blog has the responsibility to create his or her own reputation through this medium. “We are validated by an interactive community.”

As the internet’s popularity continues to rise, there arise different problems. Though, as Thompson said, “We are at a point of great opportunity,” the future of internet news remains unclear as members of the panel provide the groundwork for the elusive “new model.”

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