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Overview story:


Wednesday afternoon's panel:

What responsibilities do journalists have to educate their own communities?

  • Neil Budde, president, chief product officer,
  • Vivian Schiller, CEO, NPR
  • Andrew Hayward, retired CBS News president
  • Ted Koppel, former anchor, ABC News and managing editor, Discovery Channel
  • Alexandra Wallance, senior vp, NBC News

Neil Budde: TV shows measured. Now every single page and click is trackable. "And that's really what's changing the economics of this business . . . .Each piece of content is now available and selectable by the user, and that get's measured."

Hayward: "He's solid inthe journalsit sense. The evidence he shows is verifiable. And he also devotes more resources to the stories he focuses on than most news organizations."

Koppel: "Jon Stewart is to television news what a great editorial cartoonist is to a newspaper. If you are going to look at a great editorial cartoon and think you have grasped everything that a story is about, you're missing something."

"What troubles me about Jon, is not his program, it is that so many young people look at that and operate under the illusion that they are getting a full newscast . . . part of the problem today is that the full newscasts are not full newscasts."

Morning Edition has more audience than any of the morning network TV shows -- about 16 million listeners in a given week, Schiller said.

KOPPEL: "Money affects what a business does, and we have discovered we are just like any ohter business -- but we're not. ... it is there to inform the public and inform the public on issues that may or may not be entertaining. And sometimes we are going to have to be a little bit dull . . .I don't think we have to be dull to be substantive. But we do have to get an audience."

SCHILLER: Talks about a chance in the dynamics of the business that is relevant to news literacy. She talks about . . . "promiscuity . . . That's the notion that news consumers today are much more promiscuous in their consumption of news from a variety of sources than ever before . . . we have to think about how we help people that are coming up, the digital natives, to undestand that they can get their understanding of news through the constellation of news media."

BUDDE: DailyMe tries to elevate the brands which are part of the mix of news. When he was at Yahoo, most users they surveyed thought they were getting their news from Yahoo. They didn't understand that it was coming from The AP and many other sources. News doesn't just come from "where you found it," observes Budde.

Wallace argued that network nightly news has never been more substantive than it is now and that audiences have grown over the last year. Earlier, she said she had come to grips early in her career that the TV news business is in large part about selling automobiles (the key advertisers) and that's in inevitable reality.

HAYWARD: "There are a lot of examples of journalism that are drawn by pure pandering . . . to what extend to you feel that we as news providers live up to the standards that Howie is now teaching his students about."

KOPPEL: "When we add the term democratization to a topic . . . we Americans respond it has to be good. I don't think so. I don't think the democratization of news gathering is necessarily of itself a good thing." Having 10 million bloggers creating news without being able to determine their motives, he said, "I think is horrifying." At least on "60 Minutes" there are 40 people "who have been there since before the flood . . . but at least we know something about them, we know about how the process takes place . . . people who make sure that certain standards are met. . . . if we don't make sure that our own standards are meet, then they will dump us by the millions."

HAYWARD: What about a new kind of news where citizens get to have their own voice?

KOPPEL: At 6:45 a.m. he flipped from channel to channel to channel and saw helicopter shots of Bernie Maddoff driving from his penthouse suite to the arms of justice. But he says he didn't learn anything about Bernie Maddoff. "Cable news appears to be in a desparate rush to be first with the obvious . . . we're going to be getting more and more of it. And I'm going to be standing on the bow of that sinking ship saying, 'I told you.' But it is sinking."

HAYWARD: To what extent are we living up to our editorial standards?

WALLACE: "The job I came out of in Nightly News was exhausting. All we did was fight all day about editorial standards . . . we have debates about ethics all day . . . about Mexico and what stories are we ignoring . . . but the audience is going away."

SCHILLER: She does not agree the audience is going away. In February, was getting 20 million uniques (users) a month. "I don't see that the audience is going away; I really take exception to that."

WALLACE: "I agree with you. I think there is a huge hunger for news. What I think is broken is the business model."

BUDDE: Cites AP ethnographic research showing that young adults are interested in depth. The challenge is how to pull them in. He talks about telling a story in a different way. "Let's stop forcing people to deconstruct our stories. Let's given the more transparency up front.

HAYWARD: "The buzzword for that is transparency . . . I would like to see that rewarded."

KOPPEL: Training the audience to know the difference between "_ _ _ t and shinola is what we have to do."

HAYWARD: What could your news organization do differently?

KOPPEL: Just high quality that is entertaining, interesting and reliable. The fight for audience "has created a sort of partisan television that is more of a mudfight than anything."

WALLACE: She cites Rachel Maddow is very partisan, but she doesn't yell at people. "And I think that is very refreshing. . . . she is a very smart woman . . . I think the fact that Rachel Maddow has a lot of light and she is successful is refreshing."

SCHILLER: The challenge is to take the values of their radio work and include it in other media.

BUDDE: "How do you get away from just the facts and get to the depth in a way that keeps an audience engaged and wanting to come back."

Question-and-answer session

David Mindich, St. Michael's College professor and author of "Tuned Out," asks about the disappearance of news on the TV.

KOPPEL: "You can't regulate the Internet. It was created to survive a nuclear attack. You are not going to be able to do it anymore.

Loren Ghiglione: In the university, there's pressure to internationalize, but he doesn't see the networks covering international news. How are we going to pursuade networks to provide coverage of the world when it is a cost center and they can get away with cutting it?

WALLACE: "The irony is I am very partial to foreign news . . . it's incredibly expensive. Iraq costs the networks millions and millions of dollars . . . Afghanistan is going to get bigger . . . we are sitting on a war going on in Mexico, it hasn't really impacted us. . . .. we can't afford to do the other stuff."

Koppel said there used to be 30 foreign correspondents at ABC when he was young. Wallace said NBC now has maybe six. "Every network right now should have a bureau in Pakistan, in Indian, in Afghanistan. "There are nuclear warheads floating around in Pakistan and the world needs to know about it."

Federico Subervi: Mindich wasn't talking about regulating content -- he was asking about having stations regulated to meet the public interest, convenience and necessity. He says the percentage news devoted to Hispanics is 1 percent. The Kerner Commission pointed out the lack of diversity in news coverage. It hasn't changed. What's the percentage of Hispanic-related coverage on NPR, Subervi asks Vivian Schiller. In 2007 and 2008 it was less than 1 percent, he says.

WALLACE: "Local news is in big trouble and I don't know the answer. Until the FCC decides to give local stations money to do news, I don't know what the answer is." She said NBC is trying to figure out how to address the huge Hispanic audience. They are looking to have more Hispanic reporters.

HAYWARD: A good idea of something that should be included in a news literacy course: "What's missing? What's not being covered?"

What about charging for content?

Judy Muller from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California asks about the business model. She says the Wall Street Journal charges. She asks Neil Budde, who used to run the WSJ website, and also worked at Yahoo: "Why doesn't Yahoo or Google have to pay. Is it too late for that?"

BUDDE: Says there are a lot of pieces to that question. Publishers don't want to lose traffic. Publishers actually want to be higher in the index. "I do want to touch a little on the subscription model because there is a lot of buzz right now in the industry about paying for things." He says the WSJ started from the premise: "We want to build something that people want to pay for." The put hundreds of dollars of off-line products into the online subscription that cost $45 a year.

"I think if you're going to get people to pay for something you got to start by creating something they are going to be willing to pay for ... and then you spend forever marketing it . . . news organizations are going to have a lot of trouble going into that business unless they think about what they are going to put behind that wall."

SCHILLER: People have only been willing to pay for three things:

  • Real time financial data
  • Specialized sports content
  • Porn

"Beyond that, I don't believe having done a lot of research on it, that there is a sustainable business model for charging for content." SChiller said she led a successful effort to end Times Select. It got to about 220,000 people a year and then it stopped. And she starting thinking about that annuity vs. the value of searched content.

"Right now because of this horrendous economy that discussion seems to be going on again," said Schiller. "And I still think there has got to be a better way."

"Part of the answer is to go to younger people, and younger people are cheaper than older people."