This should be a great opportunity, right? UConn has a journalism school. What would better prepare journalism students for today’s workforce than to figure this out?
Our company is focused on the crossover point where digital revenue offsets print decline. And everyone, newsroom included – newsroom especially – is part of that conversation and mission.
But I’m afraid that’s not going to happen anytime soon at UConn, although I hope I’m wrong.
As Romenesko was writing about the potential demise of The Daily Campus, UConn Journalism School Dean Maureen Croteau was at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association last week addressing the Bizzaro World question of “How do we preserve our role as gatekeepers?”
“We used to know who we were,” she said. “We were gatekeepers. We sorted out the rumors from the truth.”
Croteau criticized the idea of the story as a process, saying that media now “reports rumors” not because we know they’re true but because “everyone is talking about it.”
Her example of why readers still need newspapers to “sort out the truth for them” was a recent quest she made to research the purchase of a new washing machine.
One online review said it was the best thing ever, the next said it was the worst, and my God, where is my newspaper telling me what kind of washing machine to buy?
It’s OK. I didn’t really understand what she was saying either, other than that she hasn’t fully figured out the whole web-has-revolutionized-consumer-knowledge thing and how to use it.
Croteau said – in that exasperated, exaggerated voice that print curmudgeons use to indicate their reluctant disdain – that she Tweets and Facebooks and realizes we have to embrace new mediums.
But let’s find a way to hold on to that gatekeeper thing.
She ended by quoting former Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Amanda Bennett’s contribution to a recent Nieman Reports collection of “what I would have done differently” musings.
…. Where Bennett argued not the conventional wisdom that newspapers did far too little to change back in the day, but that they panicked too much:
“With circulation and advertising both dropping, we had a tendency to go apocalyptic. I remember long impassioned discussions about the “future of news,” about how young people didn’t care anymore, about how newspapers were becoming irrelevant. The panic froze us and perhaps made us less effective at figuring out what our problems were.”
Croteau closed with Bennett’s closing words, “that people—including young people—want news and that even physical newspapers have long lives ahead.”
The message stood in contrast to Croteau’s fellow CDNA panelists last week.
Rich Hanley, head of Quinnipiac University’s journalism graduate school program, talked about how his school has been “platform agnostic” for years. We know this, because we’ve hired a number of his graduates.
And retired Hartford Courant Managing Editor Claude Albert had a very different take on “what I would have done differently.”
Albert said the traditional gatekeeper role must be shifted to “harness the expertise of others.”
The Guardian is “charging into the networked world for a very journalistic reason,” he said, and no one can question the results they’ve achieved in partnering with the audience to do better watchdog journalism.
Albert said newsrooms must “fully embrace digital first, including social media.” And that means a top editor who is fully committed to digital, and ALL reporters and editors web-capable and social media savvy.
He said you need to find “the RIGHT efficiencies,” to put resources into journalism that distinguishes you, and to engage with the community and partner with others, “so you can devote more of your resources to things only you have.”
The world that Albert describes is the one Croteau’s students will inhabit. Will they be prepared? I know potential employers like me will be asking that question. We can’t afford not to.