Role of Media in Shaping – and Reflecting – Culture and Society

Good morning. My name is Marisa Quinn. I’m the vice president of
public affairs and university relations here at Brown. Welcome. Welcome to the 250th
anniversary of your institution. Thank you so much for
coming and bringing the sunshine from wherever it
is you came from, because we’re very happy to have
it gracing us. Here in Providence,
you just never know. I’m a member of
the committee that has been planning for the 25oth
for more than three years. And this was a weekend
that we thought about from the very beginning
as being critically important. And I hope you’ll see that when
you walk around the campus. There is literally
something for everyone. And so I hope you’ll take
advantage of the laboratory demonstrations, the art
exhibits, the theater performances, musical
performances, athletics. Go to the Harvard game tonight. There’s fireworks. And then of course,
there’s panels like this. And the idea of these
panels is to bring together alumni and faculty
to explore issues that are of great importance
to society and to Brown. This particular
panel is focusing on the role of the media in both
shaping and reflecting society. And this aligns very nicely with
an area of our plan Building on Distinction, which is a
strategic plan for Brown. And that is, how do
we think about how we use our scholarship,
research, teaching, and service to create just, peaceful,
and prosperous societies? So a person who’s
thinking a lot about this is political science
professor Richard Locke. Rick is also the director
of the Watson Institute for International Studies. And he’s leading the
conversation this morning, joined by two award-winning
journalists, Mara Liasson, who is a National Public Radio
political correspondent and Fox News contributor,
and Mark Maremont, the senior editor of
The Wall Street Journal. So they have tremendous,
impressive bios. I don’t want to go into that. I want to just get
into the conversation, so I’m going to turn
it over to Rick. Great. Thank you very much, Marisa. And good morning, everyone. And welcome to this panel
on the role of media in shaping and reflecting
culture and society. And I also want to thank our
two panelists, Mara Liasson and Mark Maremont,
for joining us today. The panel is really
going to focus on what is the role of
media and journalism and promoting a just
and peaceful world, and how should we be
preparing journalists in the 21st century? And so the way we’re going
to structure the panel is I have a couple
questions that I thought I would sort of lead off and
ask our panelists to address. And then we’ll open it up
for questions, answers, and discussion. So let me begin by asking both
Mara and Mark if you could tell us a little bit about why
you became journalists, and what if anything
that you experienced at Brown might have shaped
that career decision and how has your career in
journalism evolved, given all the changes and the
business model of the media, social media, and
things like that? So why don’t we kick that off? And Mara, do you want to begin? I was an American
history major at Brown. And now I’m the national
political correspondent for NPR. So I would say there’s a
straight line from Brown to what I do now, with
no deviations at all. No. But I think that– I do consider
it a pretty straight line. I was interested in
politics and history. I’ve always been interested
in politics and history. I was interested
in social change. And I came here
in the late ’70s. And I had a wonderful
experience here. You know, I would
say my experience in the history
department at Brown was just one of the best
experiences of my life. While I was at Brown, I didn’t
write for The Herald, actually. But I did write for something
that no longer exists. It was a free weekly. I think it was called Fresh
Fruit, so embarrassing. But it was a magazine,
a weekly magazine. So I wrote for that. And then I also was lucky enough
to get a freelance writing assignment while I was here. And I was able to
work in the summers. Certainly between my
junior and senior year I got an internship at
The Vineyard Gazette on Martha’s Vineyard. And then when I graduated I
worked for them year round. And I considered that to
be a complete and utter straight line,
just– Some of this I wrote about in a chapter
in The Brown Reader, which I’m doing an event at the
bookstore later this afternoon, so if you guys go
to that, you’re going to have to hear
this thing twice. But I mean– Anyway, I wrote a history paper
for brown with Jim Patterson. It was a psychohistory course,
like historical biography. That’s what that translates to. And I– oh, let me back up. I’m forgetting the
details of my own story. The year before when I took a
course in early 20th century American radicals with John
Thomas, who’s now the late John Thomas– he was my
adviser and my mentor and my all-around hero. To me, that was just
what a kid comes to Brown and is in complete heaven when
they look at the course catalog and they see early 20th
century American radicals. Hey, this is me. Late 20th century
American radicals. Where so I sign up, you know? So it was a class
for upperclassmen. I talked my way in
somehow as a sophomore. And that’s my first
class with John Thomas. And I wrote a paper
for him about a group of artists in New
York who painted very realistic pictures. They had a political agenda. And I submitted the– this
is such a stupid, long story. But I submitted the paper
to a student essay contest in something called
The American Art Review, which no longer exists. It got chosen. So my paper got published. That was very exciting. And I think I got $100. And then completely
coincidentally and bizarrely, somebody, some art dealer
from Boston read the article and wrote me a letter
and said, you know, he wanted to hire me to write
the text of an art catalog about somebody– an
artist whose work he had purchased who
also painted pictures of workers and factories. OK. He was like a, god, like a
left-wing Norman Rockwell kind of from Ohio. His name is Jared Benicker. In any event, this is just
such a long, stupid story. He came to Brown. This could never happen today. He went to the registrar. He got information
about where my dorm was. He went up to the dorm
room, knocked on the door. My roommate opened the door. And he said, “Hi, I’m a dealer. I’m looking for Mara.” [LAUGHTER] And she you know, like closed
the door and freaked out. I wasn’t there. Anyway, turns out this guy
worked for the Vose Galleries in Boston. He had this complete
collection of works by Jared Benicker, who was
not a very great artist. But he did paint
factory workers in Ohio. And they needed somebody
who could work very cheaply, me, to write the catalog essay. So he hired me to do that. And he gave me $500. And I wrote the paper
on Jared Benicker for the psychohistory class, and
then left Brown for a semester to kind of turn
it into the text. Anyway, this is a long story. While I was doing that, I
went to Martha’s Vineyard for the second
semester of the year, because I could live
in somebody’s house who happened to be a famous writer
whose daughter I met here at Brown. But in any event, I
lived in their house. I wrote this catalog essay. While I was there,
I decided to apply to The Vineyard Gazette
for an internship. I would go down
there every week. I would kind of camp
on their doorstep until they either had to
hire me or call the police to get rid of me. And they hired me. So that’s the long story. That was my first journalism
job at The Vineyard Gazette. I’ve left journalism for
maybe one year or two. I started very early
in public radio. I’ve been at NPR since 1985. I’m sure my story is very
different from Mark’s. I’ve had the same employer
for almost 30 years. I have done different
jobs for them. NPR has been remarkably
immune to the tumult that has occurred in the
journalism industry. We’ve been very lucky. We didn’t have the
same kind of implosion that print experienced. We also are cheaper to
produce than television, so we didn’t have–
there was no cable kind of that came
into the radio world. We do have, we did have
the same financial problems as any big nonprofit
organization, any university. You know, our endowment
took a big hit in the financial crisis. But for the most part,
we’re still standing. We’re moving into
every platform you can. And I’m sure we’ll talk
more about that later. And we’ve actually
benefited from the troubles of all of our sister
publications and television networks, because
we’ve been able to hire all these refugees, people
who lost their jobs. And we were able to hire a
lot of really great people in the last couple of years. So it really was
a straight line. I covered Congress for NPR. I was a general
assignment reporter. I covered Congress for NPR. Then I covered Bill Clinton
in the ’92 election. Sometimes, not always,
the journalist, the reporter who
covers the winner gets to go to the White House as
the White House correspondent. That happened to me. And I covered Clinton
for eight years. Then I became the national
political correspondent, which I am to this day. Only now I am back in
the White House rotation. There are three of us. Every third week, I’m
actually physically there. I’m covering issues and
ideas that I’ve always been interested in, that I’ve
been interested in since I was at Brown, reform,
social change, you know, how politics does
or doesn’t come up with solutions to big problems. I really do think I’ve been
doing the same thing since I was 18 years old. Great. Great. Thank you. Mark, how about you? Thanks very much, Rick. It’s funny, because
listening to Mara talk about her history
sort of history here at Brown and the
American history department, I had the exact same professors. And they were incredibly
great and inspiring. But when I think back about why
I got interested in journalism, it actually is actually
all due to Brown. And I know you think
that’s a paid announcement. But I did my history thesis
on something that was actually 10 years old at the time, which
was the Chicago Seven trial. And so it was a little
bit of a heresy. Everybody was focused
on 1787 or whatever. And so the thesis, which they
never thought I would finish, but I spent 20 hours a day in
the library for the last month and finished it up,
was well received. But one of the commenters
put at the bottom a little note saying, “this
is very journalistic.” [LAUGHTER] And I thought, oh no. What kind of an insult is this? And then he wrote,
“have you considered becoming a journalist?” A little light bulb
goes off, like– So I actually went back
to my hometown, which is Chicago, for a
couple years and worked in a business sort of job,
which was unbelievably boring. And so I started doing some
freelancing for a local– I went into a local free weekly. I’m not sure they even
have these anymore. But they would in each
neighborhood in Chicago, the Lakeview weekly or
the Lincoln Park weekly, they would throw them on
your doorstep once a week. And I went in there, and I
talked to this crusty old guy. He says, what do you
have that’s written? I said, well, I just
did a 180-page thesis. And he said, that’s too long. I said, what about a chapter? So I carefully Xeroxed, you
know, in those days, a chapter. And I dropped it off. And I called him,
never heard anything. Then I went by there
like two weeks later. And I knocked on the door
again a smoke-filled room and the whole thing. And I said, did you
have a chance read that. Too long, he said, what
ideas do you have for me? So I gave him three
ideas. and he said, OK. Those all sound good. Do them. So I got paid $25
for my first article. And it was just like a big buzz. And I just got very jazzed
about the whole thing. I came of age in the sort
of post-Watergate era. And everybody I think– I
went to journalism school at Columbia after this. And everybody I met there wanted
to be Woodward and Bernstein. Actually some of
them have become incredibly famous journalists. And it was an incredibly
talented class. But I wanted to be
Woodward and Bernstein too. So guess what. I’m not. But I have had a very
wonderful career. I worked at Business Week
magazine for many years. I was posted in London,
did some stuff in Europe. And then I’ve been at
The Wall Street Journal for quite a long time. And what really
still jazzes me– I’ve been an editor
and also a reporter. And I actually am back
reporting a lot now. And I just get really excited
about finding new things out that people do that’s bad,
particularly that are bad. It’s like I’m like a detective. And so there’s nothing–
I spent a lot of time recently doing kind
of data journalism, like you find
things in big data. We talk about the
changes in the world now. And there’s been a huge
change in the media industry, of course, as we all know,
because of technology. But it also has presented
all kinds of opportunities for people to say,
there’s a change. But there’s also great tools
out there that we can use. So just mining data for
interesting trends or stories, a couple years
ago, I did a story about using jet aircraft,
private jet aircraft flights. And so you can–
believe it or not the FAA has a database of every
flight in America going back however many years. And I discovered there was
another database of golf scores, where people would
post their own golf scores. So we did a like match
them up, the story about the CEO flying on the
company jet to go to Naples. And then he’d post his
golf score for the weekend and fly back, $70,000
for the jet flight. So you couldn’t have gotten
this before the technology era. So we try to adapt. We try to change. I still have a great time. It’s fun. And I’m looking
forward to talking a lot more about
journalism and the media. Great. Thanks, Mark. I have a couple more questions. And then we’ll open it up. And let’s go back to you Mark
about the different roles that journalists play. So you play a role of watchdog. And some of your articles
about executive compensation, a variety of other
things, have done things like that, of educating the
public in a variety of things. And especially in the
print media space, but not only the
print media space, there have been so many
challenges and changes in that sector. How have those roles
evolved or been challenged given all the changes
in your line of work? Well, I mean there’s no doubt
that the print media has been incredibly challenged. I just have a question
of everyone here. How many people today
have a daily newspaper delivered to their door. Oh, this is– This is the wrong audience
to ask that question. Wrong audience. Well, no. It’s actually interesting,
because a lot of us are approaching middle age. Ask in a different way, how many
people here who are under 30 have a newspaper delivered? So there’s nobody here under 30. I was at my daughter’s
college in Colorado. And I asked the same question. And obviously, just like
where do you get your news, and college students all
get their news online. And I do too. Actually, I have three
daily newspapers. But I’m in the business. But it’s obviously
changed a lot. And we’ve had– I
have to say, it’s one of the sort of most
depressing things is we’ve just been through
cutback after cutback after cutback. And the benefits are shrinking. And you know, it’s been a
little disheartening from time to time. I mean, we had some new
ownership changes as you know. And it’s actually
stabilized the situation from a financial standpoint. But I do think that journalists
have– the sort of watchdog role has diminished
to some extent. We just don’t have the
resources we used to have, even at The Wall Street Journal. And there are very
few newspapers in the country that do now. New York Times, The Wall Street
Journal, and a few others still do excellent kind of
investigative watchdog group, and NPR. But it’s shrinking
and shrinking. And you know, I am
concerned about that, because I think that
there’s a lot of commentary and great stuff on the internet. But a lot of it is kind of
reflecting what I would call, it’s like a pyramid
with a small base of original reporting
at the bottom and then a lot of
chatter at the top. And the question is, if
you shrink the base further and further, the chatter sort
of becomes more and more diffuse and not as good. I mean, there’s been a lot
of good citizen journalism and interesting
things that are going on that are changing
the environment. But another thing I’m a
little concerned about and I can see in our own work
and sometimes in a weird way, is the rise of basically
partisan journalism, which– I mean, I grew up in as we
talked about the Woodward and Bernstein era. And I was taught and almost
injected into our veins that journalism
school, like you’re supposed to be completely
impartial, which is basically impossible because we’re all
human beings as reporters. But in addition to
putting pressure on people– and The
Journal actually has been pretty
immune from this, even under the new ownership
on the news pages. But one of the issues is that
people out there perceive everything we do
in a partisan way, like they think that we’re
writing partisan things. We have kind of like a
joke, on the online, we bet how long before
an unrelated story will be attacked by commenter
that uses a political thing. So I did a story about how–
a series of stories about how Google and other tech companies
are not– giving free food out to all their employees,
like lavish buffets, but there’s no
taxes being charged. Oh, right. And so we had a little bet
going internally, which I won. By the third comment it
was all about the IRS and partisan attacks
on Republicans. But this was about a
1950s-era IRS regulation. And if they did
take on Google, it would’ve been taking on
a Democratic-leaning, Silicon-Valley-type thing. People will just read anything
into sort of benign stories these days. And I find that disturbing. I mean, we get very
cynical about it. But it is, I think,
sort of undermining the fabric of our society
and political and even economic or social discourse. Great. Thanks. And Mara, even though
NPR didn’t have the same kinds of
challenges as a print media, but in terms of the
proliferation of these kind of very partisan blogs, all
this chatter, and every now and then, actual political
attacks on the funding of NPR. Oh. Every now and then? Or maybe continuous. And I just wonder, how do you
feel these different roles that journalists play
have been affected? Well, first of all,
there’s no doubt that the environment,
the media environment, is hyperpartisan, like every
other part of politics today. And what do they
say, Fox and MSNBC don’t even cover the
same natural disasters. It’s like people live in
completely separate universes. And we can talk
about partisanship for like 12 hours here. And you know, it’s permeated
every aspect of American life, including people. I mean, people now live with
people that agree with them. They work with people
that agree with them. The country’s more partisan. However, as somebody who
appears on Fox and NPR– and believe me, I get
grief from both audiences for different reasons. And I believe I say exactly
the same things on both places. NPR’s my regular job. And then I go to
Fox once or twice a week to be on a
panel of journalists. It really is true that people
live in different universes. And I think it’s really too bad. I don’t know what the
answer to that is. I really don’t. I mean, NPR strives to be
down the middle, objective. There’s no doubt
that our audience is more liberal than
the audience at Fox. And there are people who
perceive NPR as left. I mean, it’s just– all
I think that I can do– and don’t forget. I’m a lowly content provider. I’m not like an editor. I don’t make decisions. I just provide content. And all I can do is do my best. And like Mark said,
I’m a human being. Of course I have opinions. But to be as balanced as
I can, to make sure there are voices from both
sides in every story. That doesn’t mean you
can’t come to a conclusion or make some kind
of pointed analysis. But you know what
he’s talking about, the inverted pyramid, sometimes
we call it the echo chamber. I mean, all the people up
there commenting and bloviating and the punditocracy,
there is a kind of self-perpetuating Tower of
Babel kind of aspect to it. But one thing that
I did want to ask Mark is I understand that
resources are diminished. And that’s just
across the board. And it’s a tragedy. I mean, you turn
on local news, I don’t know if there– so few
local stations, even local NPR stations, have the money to
do real good investigative journalism. However, it seems at a time
when the barriers to entry are so low to being
a journalist– all you need is a
laptop– and I would think that big data is
also relatively accessible. How come the resources, the
diminishment of the resources is such a big obstacle? In other words, it seems
like we live in a time when some of it–
good journalism should be easier to do in
some ways, not more expensive. I’m just curious. Yeah. I mean, there is a lot
of– I have seen and been the beneficiary of a lot of
what I would call good citizen journalism, people who
do stuff on their own and they gather some
interesting material. But they don’t
know what to do it. And nobody listens to them. So then they might contact me or
somebody else with The Journal and say, look. I’ve gathered this really
interesting information. Some of them filed elaborate
Freedom of Information Act requests and done all sorts
of interesting things. And they just don’t have
a big enough voice yet. You know, there are
people who are gathering a big enough voice
and are doing very good journalistic-like stuff. Like the Glenn
Greenwalds of the world. Yeah. But one of the things that
we try to offer people is what we call curated
journalism, which is that somebody besides me–
there’s a filter between me and you, which is probably
usually a good thing. I don’t always agree, but in
the case of The Wall Street Journal, there’s usually at
least a couple of editors who look something over, and
a lawyer and another lawyer. And so– some of my best
friends are lawyers. So the people when they see
the content of The Journal, they know it’s been thought
about and carefully cultivated. And you know, I think
that adds hopefully a little bit of
imprimatur to our– or an imprimatur to our copy. But I mean, there’s a lot of
stuff that just gets around. I mean, look at
this TMZ video of– Oh, it’s unbelievable. Yeah. There’s just a lot of
different media operations, or the 47% video or audio
that– video, I guess it was, that I think had a very large
role in President Romney not being. And that was Mother Jones. That’s an established
publication. Yeah, but somebody– Yes. Yes. Somebody had to get it. Exactly. So it’s like, why
would you even do that if you weren’t
thinking about citizen journalism of a different sort? So it’s a challenge. I mean, things are–
it’s expensive to do good journalism. We have three or four like
really, really good data people that we now work
with who just sit there all day long crunching
numbers and comparing spreadsheets in and mining stuff
for really interesting stories. But these people are not cheap. And it’s not easy to
keep them employed. Great. Why don’t we open it
up to the audience. And people ask questions. And when you ask, just
identify yourself briefly. Sure. John [INAUDIBLE], Class of ’84. I teach journalism
at GW a little bit. Mark, more for you,
Silicon Valley, what role are we going to see
from some of the folks who have been successful
in tech who are now venturing into journalism? What do we anticipate, given
that you have [INAUDIBLE]? Yeah. I mean, it’s sort of a
joke among journalists these days, which is choose
your billionaire carefully. Who do you want to work for? Is it Pierre Omidyar? Is it Rupert Murdoch? Jeff Bezos. Is it Michael Bloomberg? Bezos. I mean, lots of– yeah. I mean, just there’s
lots of people. And you know, I think it’s
good that wealthy, influential people want to– see the
value of influencing opinion through media. So that’s a positive. And these people obviously
have the resources to sustain a Washington Post
or a new venture of some type. But obviously, a lot of them
bring opinions or biases or whatever you
have to the party. And you just have to decide
whether you as a journalist want to live with that or not. So I mean, I’m not sure
it’s just Silicon Valley. I think Silicon
Valley is obviously minted a lot of new people
with a lot of money. But it’s just a lot
of folks out there who want to play in
this exciting space. It’s sort of like
an expensive toy. It’s like a baseball–
I mean, look, Steve Ballmer spent $2
billion on the Dodgers. So– OK. We have three– But Rick, I just wanted to
say something about that. You know, rich people have
always bought publications. But there’s a difference
between a Rupert Murdoch who is an old-fashioned
press baron, and what you’re asking about, which
is– and I would only say the answer to your
question is like TBD, because so far Jeff Bezos,
we haven’t seen anything. He’s owned The Post. Like we were waiting for some
incredibly interesting thing to happen because he comes
out of this world of tech. So far it hasn’t happened. So I would just say–
or it’s TBA, not TBD. But anyway, whatever it
is, we don’t know yet, because they haven’t– and
I don’t think– the Omidyar, what’s the name of his– First Look. First look. Yeah. I don’t really– Yeah. Hasn’t happened yet. Yeah. So I think it’s just
to be continued. But one more thing. And I probably didn’t really
address your question, the underlying question,
which is, can technology be used to further the media? I sure as hell hope so,
because we’re trying hard. We do a lot of multimedia
at The Journal. There’s a lot of video. We have this sort of
webcast several times a day. But I think the traditional
media people are just not as swift at is as people from
the Silicon Valley culture. And I’m hoping that some
cross-fertilization can take place where we are still
allowed to tell stories, still allowed to do investigations
and have the funding for it, which is the key thing,
and people will see it. So as Mara said, stay tuned. Great. Other questions. I thought I saw– yeah. I realize that I at
least according– Charlotte Andrews, ’78. I realize that at least
according to the Supreme Court, corporations are people now. But what do you think about the
role of corporate advertising and what does or doesn’t get a
lot of play in the media today? Well, I mean, the question is
about corporate advertising. I mean, NPR does not have
sponsored content, OK? So I mean, I can’t– That’s why I like you guys. Well, OK. But we do have
underwriters, which are advertisers, translation. And I think it’s
pretty clear when we have an underwriting
credit on NPR. And I hope it continues to be. And that to me is the
big important thing. I mean, there’s always been
advertisers in the media. And there has to be,
because otherwise then we are going to be dependent on
the federal government forever and ever. And I can make a
prediction that NPR at some point in the near future
will have no federal funding. And I’m fine with that,
absolutely fine with that, personally. I’m not speaking for NPR. But as long as it’s delineated
as corporate advertising and not something else,
I think that’s OK. But there is this
whole new world now of sponsored content,
which I can’t really speak to. And we don’t have it. But I mean, the real issue
is the economics of the media business, which
for years, it was we would sell you a
Wall Street Journal subscription for
$200 a year, which was very little for somebody
to print up the newspaper and go around and throw
it on your front doorstep or bring it to your
building or whatever. And most of the money
came from advertising. I mean, back in the ’99
period, we literally could not print enough
newspapers, hard to believe. So they had to like
close sections early so we could print
new newspapers. Of course, we’d
love for those days to come back, come by
in another section. But now, advertising
has shrunk dramatically. So the question is, who’s
going to pay for this? And The New York Times
and we and others have these paywall-type things
where people are paying. But it’s not nearly
enough, really, frankly. So there’s hopefully going
to be a balance struck. And I think we’re still
striking it at The Journal. But there are other
places that are starting to move a little more blurred
of let’s have the advertisers, but also let’s keep some
pretty strict line between what we call church and state. I’m not sure who the church is. But it’s a lot of economic
pressures on the business. And when people
are under pressure and they have
profits to produce, then they’ll make
compromises, unfortunately. Great. Other questions. Yes? Jeff Anderson, Class of ’84. Is there any concern about
the youngest generations and how they’re getting news? I think most of us here probably
sat down with our parents and we watched the nightly news. We delivered newspapers, so
it was part of our lives. But now kids are trying
to do things just on Instagram or whatever
in 140 characters. And they don’t have that sort
of [INAUDIBLE] news like we do. It’s TMZ and YouTube
and not the real stuff. So what are your
thoughts about that? Well, my thoughts are
I’m scared to death. I mean, really. I think that just an uninformed
public is a really scary, an uninformed generation
is a really scary thing. And sure, they know everything
about Miley Cyrus, at least my kids do. But it scares me to death. I mean, I don’t know what
the answer is to that. I really don’t. But I can tell you
just having interns at NPR who come from
excellent colleges and are supposedly
highly educated, when they are typing
up my interviews, just transcribing
them, and they come across the name of
an elected official, like a prominent
elected official, and they have no idea how
to spell that person’s name, because they’ve never–
obviously they have no idea who he is Senator
So-and-So, whatever. Anyway, I can’t help
you on that one. I’m scared to death
and totally depressed. Great. Yeah. Sure. Could you introduce– [INAUDIBLE] ’78. I would have agreed with
you a few years ago. But I have to say my two sons,
ages 22 and about to be 20, they don’t read
newspapers in print. They read everything
on the Internet, and I mean everything. So they do know all about Miley
Cyrus or cars or whatever. But they also know a
huge amount about what’s going on in Ukraine or in Gaza. I mean, now we’re both political
science types, but they read– Oh. That’s great. That’s really great. –so much more widely. And they tell me, at least,
that all their friends do. So I don’t know
whether that’s really– whether there’s really as much
to be concerned about as we newspaper readers like to think. I just don’t know. OK. Let’s bring– yes. Yeah. Hi. I’m a reporter with the
Brown alumni magazine. So it seems to me
that we’re talking about this new period as
new and unprecedented. But it does seem
to me we’re just going back to the way the media
was the pre-Watergate era, the way it was in– the way
it is in Europe even still, where community, gossip,
rumor, and partisan papers all come together to produce
the civic fabric of the United States. So is it just that maybe
Watergate, that era, was just a blip and we’re
really just going back to the normal state
of journalism? I mean, if you think back
to– I lived in the UK for quite a while. And the papers were
much more aligned and I think still are
with political parties than American newspapers
supposedly are. And Parliament was, of course,
a little bit more raucous than the Senate used to be. But as you say, the civic
society got along well. I think that there is some
view in the journalism world that that was kind of
a golden era, the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, whatever,
and now it’s changing a lot. I’m not sure that we’re
going back so much as to an unknown
future where we don’t know how well these
things are– what’s going to happen to society. I’m actually a little
bit more optimistic than Mara is, because
I think people– there have been a lot
of technological changes over the last several
thousand years. But people adapt. And I’m hoping that we can adapt
to the 140-character era, which by the way journalists love,
because we can like tweet our latest accomplishment or
our friend’s accomplishment out. And then 200 other people
tweet, retweet it, et cetera. It’s like a huge megaphone. So all the people I know, it’s
basically like self-promotion as opposed to anything else. But I agree that we are
changing in some ways back to something
that was– back to Thomas Paine and
the various founders and they have a
completely different view of what journalism
was back then too. But it’s not going to
be exactly the same as it was in the 1780s. Mara, do you want
to add to that? Yeah. I think we’re entering
a brave world. I mean, nobody’s figured out
the business model, you know, how you make money on something
that’s basically free. And I would say in terms of what
we do at NPR with social media, it’s definitely
a promotion tool. It’s to get people to
link to our stories, to come to our website. But it’s really important. And also, we have a
little bit difference. We’re listener supported. And we do have
corporate advertising. But we also have
listeners who support us. But, you know, I
said this earlier. You know, NPR’s this
remarkably stable– I don’t want to say we’re
not changing like crazy like everybody else is. But we’re a remarkably
stable island in this roiling
sea of journalism. But I don’t think the future
has been figured out yet. I don’t know what
it means to get your news in 140 characters. I know what it means to
be told about a story that Mark or I have written
and then link to it. That I get. But to get your news from your
Twitter feed and that’s it. I don’t really know
what that means. Other questions. Yes. Scott Tate, ’83. Assuming you agree with
the premise of my question, to what do you attribute
the incredible decline in television journalism,
where I grew up watching Walter Cronkite, who
allegedly his own family didn’t know what his political
persuasion was, to Fox News, where you’ve got to turn
your head way the right, with all due respect, and
others would argue that MSNBC, you’ve got to turn
to way to the left, both in terms of the
selection of what they cover and in terms of, god, I
mean, unabashed bashing of the president in the case
of Fox, to the point of sport? So what do you
attribute to that? And what do you see as
the end game should one be very pessimistic? Because there’s big money in
opinion as opposed to news. There’s also a big money in
this idea of narrow-casting. And you know, Roger
Ailes figured this out, that there was this
incredible audience for a conservative
newscast, news channel that hadn’t been tapped. MSNBC found the same thing. We talked a little bit
about this earlier. This is not something– you
can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And it’s not something
that a few nefarious people in the press invented. This is what’s
happening in society. I mean, people listen to news
outlets that they agree with. To me, like why bother? You know, I always tell, when
I talk to groups of students, I say, look. It’s really important
that you listen to stuff and read stuff that
you don’t agree with and go to a news aggregator. There are some great website
that are news aggregators, Real Clear Politics, there
are a bunch of them, that have everything
that’s been written on a certain subject from all. And you can link to all
the different outlets. I think that society,
because of technology, has become more atomized
and more– what is it? You can kind of create your
own– it’s the selfie culture. You can create your own news
feed, just of things you want. One thing that–
the reason I still read newspapers, not
just because I am old. But when I go on the website of
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times and then
I look at the paper, there’s something that I missed. If you can’t flip
through it, it’s not– I just feel like I’m
not getting everything. I don’t know m because
obviously everything should be on the website. But it’s not. It’s hard to find, yeah. Yeah. I don’t know why, but it is. Yeah. Great. Yes. If you could just
introduce yourself, please. Oh, Anastasia Rubis, ’81. What do you tell students who
want to go into journalism? And could you please
be very honest? If it were a family
member, what would you– Stop! No. [LAUGHTER] That’s the question I
always ask the doctor. Like, if you were treating your
daughter, what would you say? And they usually lie. But you know, I’m sort of torn. I think that for
people who really like to tell stories or
interested in this sort of career, I mean, first of
all, the one thing I would say is that it sort depends
upon your personality. If you’re a doer, someone who
likes to do things, then maybe it’s not for you. If you’re an observer, then
it’s something to consider. You know, it’s funny
because I think that there are people
approaching middle age like me who are toward the sort of
latter stages of our career. And we’ve got enough seniority
that we can sort of last out the technological changes. And then there’s young
people who are now coming in, and we actually
hire a lot of them at The Journal, who
have tremendous skills with multimedia and
with– some of them can code things on the internet. And they are very good
with social media. And they can do six screens
at once and whatever. They seem to be doing fine too. It’s the people who are
in their ’30s and ’40s that I’m a little
more concerned about, who– a little more expensive
than the young hires and maybe don’t
have the skill set. And a lot of these people
are learning up quickly. But I think young
people, there’s going to be– if
you’re adaptable and you can sort of
manage your brand you and your career, then it
can be a viable career. I’m not sure that I
would– one last thing. But The thing I would be
a little concerned about is I’m making a decent income
at The Wall Street Journal now. But I think it’s very difficult
to be like a main bread provider for a decent family
in the journalism business unless you really
are a superstar. So it’s becoming
to some extent, I hate to say this, a
pink collar profession. And at Columbia Journalism
School, which I graduated at, there’s far more women
going into journalism then there are men. And take that as it will. But it’s definitely
changing the economics and changing like who
wants to go into it too. That’s really something
to think about, when all of the most important
professions in a society starting with teaching and
journalism become pink collar. Why? Because they don’t
pay that much. That’s really
something to chew on. I mean– and medicine will
be that way too, I predict. Medicine will be that way. All of the most important
things will become places for people who don’t have
to be the sole breadwinner. I mean, that is really bad. But anyway– Great. Yes. This is the last question. Go ahead. Yeah. Eleanor Blackrock, ’65. I wonder for those
of you who are in reasonably objective
media and therefore want to cover– supposed to cover at
least two sides of the issue, but how do you handle
these issues where one side is just wrong? I mean– [LAUGHTER] Well, you can do that. You mean, one side is wrong
on the facts, like if– Like birthers, or– Yeah. Like birthers. I mean, there is
actually objective truth. There’s also opinion. And there are– on
almost every policy debate there are two sides. That’s different if you’re
arguing about a fact, was the president born in
the United States or not? You can say that
people are wrong. That’s different than
saying– you know, that’s different
than saying somebody who believes in some kind of
a policy solution is wrong. Yeah. No. I mean, I agree with that. I think there’s a tremendous
problem that we’re having. And we have it
unfortunately at our paper. And I see it in The New York
Times, which I read regularly, which is this what I
call false equivalence. You say, on the one
hand, the earth is round. And on the other
hand, it’s flat. On the other hand, some
people think it’s flat. You know, it’s
like– and they often are given almost as much ink
as the main sort of things. And it happens in more
subtle ways a lot. But there’s just
a lot of pressure toward false equivalence
as opposed to, we’ve spent six weeks
reporting and researching this. We’ve talked to all
the various parties. We’ve come to our
sort of approach. Yes, we’re going to
tell you that there are alternate
theories about this. But this is what 85% of the
article is going to be about. But not all the editors
of my paper agree with me. I mean, climate change
is the biggest example. Great. Yeah. Unfortunately, we’ve
come to the end of our time for this session. Please join me in thanking– [APPLAUSE] –in thanking them for helping
to promote a peaceful, just, and prosperous society
through their work. Thank you.

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