Liveblogging: Hedrick Smith

Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and producer, is on UW campus today for the Danz lecture at Kane Hall tonight. He’s talking to students from two journalism classes this afternoon. Live blogged notes:

Three trends in media that are important:

(1) Changing economics “assault” of new media. not just delivery system. “Google” delivering free of charge what we spend money in producing. Lawsuits against Google. “Simply making it available”  as advertising shrinks, the news hole shrinks. new way to pack it.

(2) Decline in news standards – specifically verification. Driven by cable and bloggers to produce “psuedo” information which is dominating the information flow. Lots of unverified information – rumors and allegations. Important for democracy.

(3) Open to new kinds of news. Not so government-driven, politics/economics/business. more cultural news now, acknowledges that life is more varied than we used to think.

I don’t know where we are going. That’s going to be your generation.

Traditional standards of jrl are every bit as important as delivery mechanism.

“Retreat” from new media by the audience. It’s chaotic – so much going on. We’ll need someone to help us sort it out, what is quality. A lot of people are going to demand general flow of news.

We’ll be in turmoil for at least another decade.

When I get on the Internet, it’s like taffy – I get stuck! That’s awful. If you start communicating with someone they answer. Immediately. A lot of time and energy and words go back and forth but not necessarily a lot of understanding.

More and more corp and institutions are having internet “ban” days. (who has heard this???)

Challenging j-students to work with scientists on campus to get info about about science in a way that makes sense to lay people. “Translator.” This is hard work. Big gap between what scientists know and what general public know – very important. Break down the silos – that’s our job as communicators.

It’s not dumbing things down – it’s changing the pacing of information. What we do over the period of an hour is to give people new levels of knowledge every 4-5 minutes. Introduce at a pace where people can absorb it.

Kathy: future of public interest journalism?

We have to make judgments about the difference between opinion and knowledge. Talk radio is full of talk but not a lot of information. I’m tired of seeing “news” that is the equivalent of Kool-Aid and watching people pretend it’s good for them. Just sugar and water.

Why do German toasters last longer than ours do? Because German consumers are more discriminating. Then we’ll affect the market.

Q about FOX v CNN. Smith notes that CNN ratings started dropping when they left their core business – which was 24-hour news, not opinion. If we as consumers are willing to veg and tune-off, that’s what we will get.

Makes argument for Anderson’s “freemium” concept by focusing on the niche willing to pay for quality content.

“I remember when the NYT was thrown off its pedestal by TV.”


By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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