Ohio Journalist

The challenge of change

Jen Evans, Magazine sequence, Andy Kane, Magazine sequence, and Angie Weaver, Magazine sequence

. Photo by photo illustration.

(July 31, 2008) — Most journalists can tell you that theirs is an industry of constant change. We always are learning new ways to gather, assess, and distribute news and opinion to accommodate the simultaneous and ever-changing demands of our audiences. And as technology advances and expands into uncharted territory, new media models arise to meet, or drive, the expectations of our audiences.

The seemingly prehistoric media model involving nightly news broadcasts, morning newspapers, and monthly magazines has waned, giving way to a new, on-demand mode of media consumption. Now, radio reporters take photos with the cameras on their cell phones and e-mail them back to their newsrooms to be posted online immediately. At the same time, print journalists take handheld video cameras with them as they interview witnesses to the news of the day. Advertising agencies are developing online content for their clients, and PR professionals need to monitor all manner of individualized media, such as blogs and MySpace.com to keep abreast of public attitudes toward their clients. Professional media compete every day not just with one another, but also with amateur and citizen journalism, both on the Web and in more traditional media forms.

The billowing media landscape brings with it new avenues for us to reach viewers, sophisticated feedback mechanisms for us to keep in touch with readers, and ever-more specialized types of news to be covered. Everyone understands that online communication offers exciting new methods for journalists, but like a double-edged sword, that comes with an increase in time pressures and competition for resources, all of which pose new practical and ethical dilemmas and changes in the news diets of citizens.

The main problem facing the news industry is how to make those modifications without losing too much blood. The newspaper industry is perhaps facing that problem the most. Large newspapers have been on the decline since the 1980s; recent circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show sharp drops in circulation at most top U.S. newspapers in the latest reporting period ending in March. Smaller newspapers with strong local ties haven’t been affected as dramatically, but even they are starting to see declines in print readership. As those circulation numbers haunt CEOs and investors, the diminished economic potential of printed newspapers is all too evident, and that trickles down to journalists who are facing layoffs and speculating about whether the industry itself is in decline, crisis, or revolution.

A final question to be raised is not only how and where the news industry will evolve, but how those who work in the industry can remain competitive or, at least, employable.

Journalism hasn’t thrown itself off the building, nor has it been pushed. Instead, it walks a tightrope between old media and the ambiguous destinations of the future. How we manage that balancing act requires the utmost finesse and that, too, is something we learn day by day.

State of the Industry

Randy Ludlow, a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, is a self-proclaimed “dinosaur” destined for extinction in a digital world. At a Scripps Journalism Day panel discussion in April, he recounted starting his career as a copyboy for the Indianapolis News in 1972, in the days of pencils, manual typewriters, and carbon paper. Over 35 years, he watched as those old technologies gave way to cell phones, laptop computers, and e-mail. It’s been a long time since he has seen reporters pecking stories onto sheets of paper and yelling out “copy!” on deadline, summoning copyboys to sprint to reporters’ desks to shuttle each page of prose to the editor for hand-editing. Today, reporters can publish stories from a coffee shop, with the press of a button and, in some cases, without anybody else reading it.

Reminiscing on days gone by, Ludlow was reminded that in that almost forgotten era of when there was no Internet and just three television news networks, everyone needed and read their local newspapers. Today, the journalism landscape looks quite different, as some within the newspaper industry are already in their funeral attire waiting for that medium’s demise. But are newspapers really being put to rest?

According to State of the News Media 2008, released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, “Newspapers are still far from dead, but the language of the obituary is creeping in.” In the U.S., newspaper revenue is shrinking, as many advertisers no longer see print as the best, cost-effective way to reach audiences, and circulation numbers at big-city newspapers continue to plummet. According to the study, overall circulation continues to fall at about 2.5 percent year-to-year for dailies and 3.3 percent for Sunday editions.

Yet, many alumni of OU’s School of Journalism remain optimistic about the news business overall.

“I think people are hungrier than ever to get the news; they just want it in a different format,” said Jay Cohen (BSJ, ’99), who works on the Associated Press national sports desk in New York. “I think that the journalism industry right now is figuring out the best way to deliver that [information]. There’s more of a hunger for the news, sports, and entertainment news than there ever was before.”

The need for news may be growing, but the means to pay journalists’ salaries are decreasing, and business managers are struggling to find new business models to support the craft. In the American newspaper model as it exists now, advertising still provides the financial underpinnings of journalism. As the revenue stream from newspaper advertising dwindles amid online competition, newspapers continue to feel the ramifications in the form of newsroom staff cuts, reduced news hole, and reductions in reporting budgets.

But like all problems, the one facing newspapers is not simply explained, and many industry leaders say newspapers are not dying; rather, the industry is in transition. Mid-sized and large papers in major cities had been suffering the most, and capture the most headlines in trade publications and the national news, but they make up a relatively small percentage of the total newspapers in the U.S. According to recent issues of the Editor & Publisher Year Book, about 85 percent of the roughly 1,450 daily newspapers in America have circulations of less than 50,000, and a little more than 70 percent have circulations below 25,000. Those small newspapers have a combined circulation that is nearly three times the combined circulation of the 200 daily newspapers with circulations above 100,000. The vast majority of newspapers in America are weeklies, and the estimated 7,865 weekly newspapers in the U.S. have an average circulation of just below 7,500. Many industry analysts maintain that those smaller newspapers have been much more likely to be profitable in recent years than their larger, more celebrated counterparts in large cities. In a May 2008 article from The Economist titled “On the brink,” it was argued that while national newspapers can invest in distinctive international coverage and small-town papers can take on a hyper-local focus to attract readers with unique content, big-city dailies don’t offer much to set themselves apart from national or hyper-local media, which may cause them to be “trapped in the middle.”

Although some advertisers have invested in the online editions of newspapers, those gains have not compensated for the loss of ad revenue in print. According to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), total print advertising revenue in 2007 fell 9.4 percent (to $42 billion) compared to 2006 the worst drop in more than 50 years. The same study calculated that online revenue represented 7.5 percent of total newspaper ad revenue in 2007, up from 5.7 percent in 2006. Still, the overall rate of growth in online advertising slowed from previous years, which some attribute to the decline in print classified ads and the rise of classified sites such as craigslist.com, which grab a fair share of the local classified ad market online. In 2007 alone, job ads in newspapers dropped 20 percent, according to data from the Project for Excellence in Journalism. In advertising, audiences are more fragmented than ever.

“There are so many places wh’re consumers have gone, and it’s the advertisers’ job to follow them. The problem is that the old paradigms don’t work anymore,” said Megan Averell (BSJ, ’04), a consumer strategist for DDB in Seattle. “The way people used to construct something was by demographics, because I knew they were watching a specific television program or reading a certain paper. There are metrics we can get from Web sites to get at that, but it’s more about psychographics anymore who someone is and how they describe themselves.”

As old-media companies look for new sources of revenue, the pursuit for financing could compromise the type of editorial content produced, said Mark Prendergast, a former editor at The New York Times and the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional in 2006-2007. “We have to stop and be careful not to allow ourselves in the pursuit of continued financing to be compromised in terms of how our editorial (enterprise) works,” he said. Prendergast stresses that he prefers to think of the industry as in transition rather than in crisis, but he said he feels that in some ways, newspapers have lost touch with their audience.

“One thing I worry about is I think we’ve gotten too insular on what information to share with our audience, in either what we think they want or what we think they need,” he said “One way you can improve that connection with your audience is through diversity.” One solution to the problem, he said, is to “become more aggressive about recruiting and developing professional journalists from a broader swath of our audience in a word, expanded diversity in our professional ranks. What I’m arguing for is to not only be aggressive in pursuing diversity along traditional lines, like race and gender, but also along less clear-cut lines, like class, background, world view and so forth, so that our press corps more closely resembles our audience and can connect with it better than we seem to be doing.”

“When you do that, you can create a better connection with your audience and you’ll be writing more stories they can relate to,” Prendergast said. “That might also redefine the notion of what the news audiences need by [your] getting to know them, having them in the newsroom and having people from the community working to produce the news that’s about them.”

Establishing those connections has long been a strength of so-called “community journalism,” the local-news-first approach common to smaller newspapers and broadcast outlets, but one that has become foreign to larger media in the late 20th century, said Asst. Prof. Bill Reader, an expert in community media and 2008 chair of the Community Journalism Interest Group of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. “One reason smaller newspapers tend to do much better than big-city papers these days at least the better ones is because they don’t turn up their noses to the seemingly mundane aspects of community life,” Reader explained. “They cover youth sports, community service groups, routine activities of local government, and everyday events at local schools. That kind of journalism never wins Pulitzer Prizes nor should it but it does attract and retain readership.”

Reader said efforts at larger newspapers to reduce, marginalize, or even suspend coverage of such community-level information is perhaps the most notable way that big-city dailies have excluded their audiences from the newsroom. Now that there are many other ways for that kind of information to be published, many people aren’t as reliant on the biggest newspapers in their cities and, as such, aren’t buying them.

Excluding audiences has been one problem in journalism, but so has the dramatic increase in consolidated ownership. Assoc. Prof. Bernhard Debatin finds that concentration of ownership in the news-media business newspapers, broadcast, and online is reducing the diversity of issues being covered. “This has led to a homogenized mainstreaming of the media that goes across the lines,” Debatin said.

On the other hand, he finds there are many online media above the level of citizen journalism or “lay journalism” that are competing with the established media. “A good example of that would be Slate.com or Salon.com,” he said. “Media like that do high-quality journalism but aren’t part of the mainstream. They have definitely enriched and enlarged the coverage by providing more diversity and a pluralistic view.”

Another source of high-end journalism on national and global issues are not-for-protit organizations. For example, the ProPublica group (www.propublica. org) is financed by donations and employs many award-winning veteran journalists from “old”-media.

Although newspaper consolidation may lead to a more homogenous print product, the Internet has the ability to push new topics into the newsroom and spotlight certain issues that would not otherwise be on the radar of a typical corporate editor. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the worse, the Internet is helping people to break the controlling grasp corporate, for-profit journalism has had on the agenda-setting mechanisms in society.

Still, newspaper companies continue to produce the lion’s share of daily news, even if they are selling fewer papers. Newspaper Web sites are attracting record numbers of visitors, more than 66.4 million on average in the first quarter of 2008, representing a 12.3 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to data compiled for the NAA by Nielsen Online.

Mark Tatge of Forbes magazine, the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional in 2008, said the growing success of newspaper Web sites is mostly about giving more control to the audience. “Readers want the ability to use news, store it, retrieve it and access it when they want. Media have always said, ‘We’re going to give a paper in the morning and that’s when you’re going to get it,’” he said. “Now, people have other choices and people are exercising their choices.”

According to the study by Nielsen Online, during 2007, 39 percent of all active Web users visited newspaper Web sites, with visits averaging 44 minutes a month. The same study found that users generated more than 3 billion page impressions on average, a 7.3 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. Readers online are allowed to access most content now for free and are spending less time with that content than they would with the print editions for which they paid.

While those numbers show that the newspaper industry isn’t struggling in figuring out ways to gather and distribute information to the masses, what remains to be seen is if the industry of local journalism can effectively compensate for the growth of the World Wide Web.

Staying local, but going online

One of the trends smaller news companies are following to compete against the plethora of Web sites and content aggregators (which offer national and international content for free) is to re-invest in the “hyper-local” coverage that many had rejected in the late 20th century. By focusing on news and culture in their local communities, community-focused news media continue to provide readers with content that resonates more with their daily lives.

Mike Canan (BSJ, ’02), Martin County local news editor for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida, said his paper’s focus is local, and the newspaper “zones” the front pages heavily so that each of the three counties it covers gets county-specific news.

“You’re reading about what’s going on in your backyard,” Canan said. “When it comes to national and international news, we still get that stuff in the paper. It’s just not played as prominently unless it’s a huge story. Just run-of-the-mill of what’s going on in Congress or the blow-by-blow of the elections doesn’t usually get out on our front page.” He said it makes little sense in an era of 24-7-365 online media for editors to fill the front page of a local newspaper with too much news from around the nation and the world. “By tomorrow morning’s newspaper, if you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably living under a rock,” he explained.

Canan said that he expects there will always be a market for printed local newspapers, although as more people spend more time online, the print editions may become specialty niche products. Even at smaller community newspapers, the Web is clearly the future many smaller newspapers, such as the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post, are shifting to Web-first publishing, and some, like the Capital Times in Madison, Wis., are cutting back on the number of print editions they publish, relying on the Web for daily publishing.

Prendergast believes the first thing news organizations must do is understand that they’re not newspapers, or radio stations, or television stations “ they’re all news organizations, and they each have different ways of reaching their audiences.

“The newspaper has to stop thinking of itself as a newspaper first, and start thinking that we have this wonderful medium here of the newspaper that we treasure and value, but it’s not the only way we speak to our audience and it’s not the only way our audience wants to hear from us,” he said.

Keeping up with the technology

Those who grew up before the Internet must learn as they go, and many are embracing the Web and what’s now expected of them. But driving the transition to multi-platform journalism are many newbies to the industry who grew up with the Internet, and for whom the Internet is as established as radio, television, and print.

Chris DeVille (BSJ, ’06) is a reporter for Columbus Alive, a weekly entertainment magazine and Web site. DeVille finds presenting information in multiple ways allows his publication to serve its readers better. “On the Web we can have an MP3 right there for people to hear the band I’m writing about,” DeVille said. “For the Q&A section in our paper, not only can they read the interview in the paper, but they can go [online] and watch it.”

In addition to writing for both print and online, DeVille blogs and produces online videos for the Web site, ColumbusAlive.com, skills he picked up on the side while taking more traditional writing and editing courses at Ohio University. He recommended that today students do the same develop a broad set of technical skills while in college, even if it means doing so outside of established courses.

“I feel like the younger people here understand that it’s the expectation now, and we’re prepared to take on the various responsibilities not just as writers,” he said. “I still think of myself primarily as a writer, but I’m also a writer who has to do a lot of other stuff.”

The newsroom of today already turns out a much different product than it did in past decades. Prendergast gave an example from New York, where he now teaches at St. John’s University. “We had three police officers acquitted in a highly-celebrated case [the Sean Bell case tried this spring] and the acquittal occurred at9 a.m. The question I posed to my students is what do you write for tomorrow’s newspaper when your audience is going to get your newspaper 23 hours after the verdict?” said Prendergast. “I wonder if newspapers will remain newspapers or if they are going to be more commentary, more analysis and closely resemble magazines? I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Transforming the journalism landscape

Deciding which medium is best for disseminating different forms of news poses more than just challenges of redefining the idea of deadline. As we twist and turn information, shaping it and reshaping it into forms we think our consumers will respond to, we find ourselves creating entirely new ways of presenting content. In similar form, newsrooms and individual journalists are being twisted and turned as well, such that their job duties are changing as much as the content they produce.

For example, Canan’s newspaper in Florida utilizes the Web as much as possible when trying to create a relevant product for its readers and a successful business model for its investors.

“Our emphasis is very heavily on the Internet,” Canan said. “We do very well on the Internet and we’ve increased our number of hits and our readership.” Within the context of hyper-localism, Canan said that his newspaper’s online audience is not the same as its print audience. “One thing that we’ve found is our Internet reader wants different things than our print reader,” he said. “People like to hear things that they can’t find anywhere else. Weird crime news and odd stories are the most popular.”

Meeting diverse audience preferences is just one challenge. Journalists also must find new ways to meet the 24-hour demand for news, mostly by being able to wear many different hats.

Gina Long (BSJ, ’01) is a morning anchor for WOWK TV in the Huntington/Charleston region of West Virginia. In the mornings, she reads the news, and in the afternoons, she gathers it.

“I have had several different anchor jobs in different states, but I’ve always been doing reporting on the side. I can be an anchor, reporter and copy editor all at the same time,” she said.

Doing reporting on the side is nothing new to her, nor to broadcast journalism; however, the manner in which she reports her stories is changing dramatically.

“We’re primarily a TV station, but we’re having to think about new ways to reach our audience. Few people really sit down to watch the six o’clock news every night. We need to be twenty-four-seven, so we’re working a lot more with online. One thing that I have to do now when I’m reporting a story is taking pictures with my camera phone on location. I e-mail [the photos] back to the newsroom from my phone to be posted online immediately.” The WOWK Web Site is updated periodically throughout the day for a number of reasons. First, the new consumer diet demands constant access to information. That means people are not willing to wait until the evening newscast to get the day’s news. Additionally, the station uses its site to publish content not broadcast on TV. “When we can’t run an entire interview, speech or story, we post the full thing online for our audience. Some people want the full transcripts, and the Web allows us to give them that,” she said. “Also, if someone misses the evening program, they’re not losing information.”

Long isn’t overly concerned about the future of television news. She sees a growing interplay between broadcast and online, and an eventual interdependency with which many of her counterparts agree. As she says, “our skills have to, and will, evolve with evolving technology.”

That evolution brings new responsibilities for news journalists. Scripps graduate Jason Lea (BSJ, ’05) works for The News-Herald in Willoughby,Ohio, as a crime and fire reporter. His typical day involves tasks that newspaper journalists have not had to confront in the past.

“When I go out to report on a story, the first thing I do is write five or six paragraphs for our Web Site. That is the first priority. If the story is big enough, I usually take a video camera with me to shoot on-site. When I get back to the newsroom, I deal with the video, and the last thing I usually do every day is write copy for the print edition.”

For some seasoned journalists, that approach is backwards they are used to writing copy for the print edition first, and only then, if time remains, doing something extra for the Web site. Such a reversal is quite an adjustment for print journalists such as Lea. Given his responsibilities on the job, Lea suggests that in this age, a journalist’s only hope to stand out from the rest requires a mastery of multimedia reporting.

“You have to be familiar with things like HTML code, videography, and writing for an online audience,” he said. “I went to school for four years for print journalism, and that’s my position. But this is the place we’ve gotten to.’

New journalism-school graduates and veteran journalists alike are finding that sustaining their careers requires a flexibility that demands constant adjustments necessary in this digital age. Being willing and able to change is just part of the job.

Part of what makes the Internet so appealing to consumers is the way it allows them to customize their information diets. Today, we have RSS feeds, news aggregators, searchable news databases, and sectionalized news menus broken down into subcategory after subcategory; all of them allow consumers to essentially have whatever they want, whenever they want it. And that level of expectation, which would have seemed outrageous to the news media of yesteryear, is something journalists are moving toward, albeit sometimes slowly. As Long put it, we are “evolving to it.”

Debatin notes that while the so-called “threshold of publishing” has expanded the potential diversity of online news, there are certain ramifications that need to be considered. For example, he said there are many people with no journalism training or regard for professional journalism standards who are using the Web to present information, some of it of questionable value.

“Anyone who has access to a computer and relatively minimal knowledge can now publish,” Debatin said. “Many people do that now on a low level, what people often call ‘lay journalism’ or ‘citizen journalism.’”

Few journalists would say that the notion of broad public access to publishing is a bad thing; however, it does raise issues regarding accountability, quality control, and editorial discipline. A great running debate in the industry is what exactly qualifies somebody to be called a “journalist,” and whether segregation exists between lay writers and working professionals. (For a broader discussion of that issue, see the Summer 2007 issue of The Ohio Journalist.)

But in true democratic fashion, a revolution of ideas and the freedom to express them in the public sphere has been spawned by the Internet. “The Internet has the ability to bring topics into the media and into the mainstream media,” Debatin said. “The [news] media are no longer completely controlling what’s on the agenda and what’s not.”

That is especially true regarding special-interest groups and commercial communications, as both public-relations campaigns and advertising efforts no longer need to rely on the news media as conduits for their messages. Both advertising and public relations can now take their messages straight to the audience.

Ad and PR, coming together

Advertising management and public relations seem to be gaining ground in the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006, 209,560 Ohioans were employed as public relations specialists (a 1 percent increase from the year before) and 28,990 people worked in advertising-related services. Compare that to the 53,060 reporters and correspondents and 100,170 editors.

Today, many former magazine, print and broadcast journalists are turning to public relations and advertising careers. PR and advertising also are being blended into ‘integrated marketing communication,’ which makes such careers much more complicated than in the past. PR is no longer just about writing news releases and staging press conferences it’s developing newsletters and product-development strategies, working within human-resources departments as much as handling external relations, and in many cases producing multi-media content that goes straight to the public, bypassing established news media.

Jill Musguire, (BSJ, ’00), who now works as a consumer marketing manager at Tutor.com after stints at The Publishing Group, BizBash Magazine and the Magazine Publishers of America, was a magazine-journalism student at Scripps whose career goals have changed considerably over just a few years.

“One of my fellow management workers (at Tutor.com) has a journalism and communications degree; another was an advertising major. There are so many companies merging and consolidating [those roles],” Musguire said.

At her job, Musguire aims to acquire new customers for the site. She also is involved in copywriting, developing and writing communications, strategic planning, and overseeing freelancers.

Andrew Grinch (BSJ, ’00) also changed his career focus from broadcast journalism to public relations. After working at a television station in Wisconsin, Grinch took a paid internship at the University of Missouri in sports marketing, and he eventually became the marketing director for the University of Missouri Athletic Department in 2006.

“Communication is the big key to marketing, selling,” Grinch said. “Journalists have the ability to relate to people and do something new every day. Now there are more avenues to dovetail into. Marketing/public relations jobs typically require journalism degrees now. There are some people with business degrees who have trouble conveying information, but that’s where journalists come in.”

At the University of Missouri, Grinch is in charge of athletic promotions, advertising and ticket sales basically anything related to promoting the athletic department. Much of it is done online, he said. “E-mail has become such a promotional tool,” he said. “We use e-marketing for sending blasts of information, like to order tickets online and soliciting, to direct people to the school’s Web site. … . The Web allows us to get out information quickly and have instant access.

“We don’t have to develop a campaign to submit to local papers anymore. (With the Web) we’re able to hit the certain people we want to target,” he said.

Like Grinch, Brad Kostka (BSJ, ’94) said e-mails are useful to help bring traffic back to a company’s Web site, allowing it to bypass the established news media. Kostka said he “wears a lot of hats” at Roop and Co. PR in Cleveland as the firm’s vice president. He works in business development, client services, agency management, plus day-to-day strategic communication, planning and technical tasks writing news releases, developing Web sites, and managing media relations.

“There’s been a convergence of media becoming a Web site, radio, TV station wrapped into one which is a big change for journalists on each end of the spectrum, public relations/advertising and print,” said Kostka, who was in the PR sequence at Scripps.

“With the work we do for clients, we try to use online space to build closer relationships with the clients and their audiences it’s a lot of integration,” he said. But he also uses the more traditional, or ‘offline,’ media outlets of print and broadcast media. “Offline communication is working in conjunction with online.”

Another benefit of online communication technology is the ability to assess the effectiveness of that communication. Melissa Wervy Arnold (BSJ, ’99) said the Ohio Chapter of the American< Academy of Pediatrics, the non-profit where she works, tracks everything on its Web site, from how many hits pages get, where people are going on the Web, even what people are looking for online.

“It really helps to give that feedback to our working committees,” she said. “It helps us pool our resources to where it’s really important.”

As an example, Arnold pointed to her organization’s “Pediatricians On Call project, which is an online grassroots advocacy network.

“We had an e-mail video that went out to our membership. It was something new and different, and it really caught their eyes more than just a regular e-mail,” she said. “It pops up, and there’s a video of our president-elect, a legislator, and myself talking about the importance of grassroots advocacy. We had tremendous success in getting our membership to join the grassroots advocacy network.”

Being flexible and tech-savvy is not enough for today’s media professionals. They also must be creative. Really creative.

Consumer-driven sites, such as YouTube and MySpace, blogging sites, mobile communication, and the do-it-yourself ease of distributing all manner of content online are all driving changes in how media professionals do their jobs.

“One of the greatest things online is YouTube,” said Chuck Borghese (BSJ, ’81), an advertising executive who worked on the “I’m Thinking Arby’s” campaign for DDB Worldwide. He offered as an example the TV commercial for Arby’s featuring chimpanzees in a lab that all start dancing to an Irish jig. “The dancing chimps commercial (for Arby’s) has gotten a ton of views on YouTube. If it wasn’t good, there wouldn’t be those views.”

This spring, for example, college students by the thousands swarmed to YouTube to see the “Walk of No Shame” ad for Pepsi’s “amp energy” beverage. The ad features college-aged adults singing about their previous night’s hook-ups with the anthem, “I will not be ashamed.” The ad itself immediately became a part of pop culture, without having to be placed between segments of a TV show aimed at the same demographic. Now more than ever, the ads themselves are the entertainment, and the most creative ad campaigns are the most effective.

Borghese said that the general public plays a much greater role in the creative process now than it has in the past. “People have become the media director. If you don’t have great content, you’re not going to be seen that’s good news to advertising people. We believe in consumer-driven marketing, and online is the key to the future,” he said.

Of mobile marketing like advertising through cellular-phone texting Borghese said he’s sure it’s going to be a big deal, but it depends on the brand being advertised. “I find it a little intrusive some media makes me mad, some makes me happy but you have to find the right medium for the brand,” he said.

But, as in print, it is still important for advertising and PR professionals to get information out to the public as fast as possible. Actually, the pressure is to get the information published faster than ever before.

“We always have to be thinking about seeing, as we need something to happen with [not much time or resources] a lot of the time,” Arnold said. “Those guerrilla tactics that we use do a lot with a little.”

Visiting advertising Prof. Craig Davis said today’s advertising professionals don’t need specialized skills, but rather broad understanding of the strengths and capabilities of different media.

“It’s not about knowing everything about advertising, but about how all of this works together,” Davis said. “When you bring that perspective in, you don’t have to know how to do programming of a Web site, but you have to know where those marketing connections are so you can do a program that isn’t just advertising but is an integrated campaign that has everything working together.

“Sometimes with a brand, you might not want to build a Web site,” he said, “but you may take advantage of a sponsorship with Yahoo!, where you have your own micro-site and your own content.”

In the end, it all still comes down to money. Averell, the consumer analyst at DDB Seattle who works mainly with large clients such as Microsoft and McDonald’s on local-level initiatives, said that larger clients have the money to spend on TV and remain committed to that medium.

“They see GRP [gross rating points], which are measurements of television viewership, as success,” she said. “Now, more of the audiences are fragmented with things like DVRs, and with multi-tasking consumers who are no longer just watching TV but are probably doing something else during the commercials, like surfing the Internet,” she said. “Knowing all of that makes it not as relevant as it used to be.”

Convergence may create more challenges, but it also means higher salaries for public relations and advertising specialists. In 2006, the average annual salary for a public relations specialist was $53,760, compared to $53,220 for an editor, and $60,330 for advertising employees compared to $41,900 for reporters and correspondents.

“The pay is usually better with corporate companies,” Musguire said. “Editorial has a smaller budget, so you usually get less money, but the experience is still really valuable.”

In today’s job market, the communications fields have merged such that journalism-school graduates can cross the boundaries of their undergraduate sequences and try their hands at different specialties from the ones they studied in college.

“The future of journalism is not within shackles… there’s many more options for [journalism] majors,” Grinch said. Even those who don’t take jobs in journalism will benefit from their J-school educations. “Journalists should know they didn’t waste time getting their degrees.”

Changing the curriculum

Throughout history, journalism has reshaped itself to embrace new opportunities. The written word gave way to the printing press; the telegraph led to wire services; radio revolutionized the news business, and television did even more. The Internet has been no different just much more complex and although a harrowing uncertainty hangs over the industry even as the Internet matures as a medium, we have seen that journalism is adapting just as it has in the past.

It is the job of the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism to decide exactly how to prepare students for that ever-changing and unpredictable journalism world (see Page 14 for a more detailed look at recent curriculum changes in the school).

According to school Director Thomas Hodson, students can no longer afford the simplicity of taking only print journalism classes so they can write for newspapers or magazines, or broadcast-journalism classes so they can report the news on TV. Hodson’s vision for taking students into the future takes a multi-faceted approach that values tradition but leaves plenty of room for innovation.

“We have always, and will continue to provide a strong foundation in the basics: news writing, editing, grammar and language skills,” Hodson said. “But what might change is the requirement that students be sequence-bound.”

In January, a faculty committee began discussing the necessary curricular changes for the school. The faculty is reluctant to dissolve the established sequences just yet, but the committee has offered some ideas for transitioning away from the current six sequences.

First, it identified the possibility of allowing more students to enroll in the Carr Van Anda sequence, which allows students and their faculty advisers to develop custom curricula according to each individual student’s wants or needs. Additionally, the committee has suggested incorporating more interdisciplinary and multimedia classes into the overall course offerings.

Noting a mutual need for cross-education, the group discussed “trading” classes between the schools of Journalism and Visual Communications at Ohio University, giving students in both schools the opportunity for a more diverse educational experience. Such symbiosis, Hodson said, would provide the cross-training necessary for students to keep abreast with changes in the industry. “The key for new graduates will be the ability to be flexible through different media,” he said.

Hodson remains optimistic regarding both the industry and the role of journalism schools in preparing people to work in the industry.

“People in my generation have been decrying media … proclaiming the death of the newspaper,” said Hodson, himself a 1970 graduate of the School of Journalism. “Yet [Scripps] has the highest enrollment of all time. People entering and within the journalism school consider the future possibilities unlimited.”

The fact remains that people will always have a thirst for information, always have a desire to learn, and will always rely on professional media of some kind to provide that for them … and that means journalism will always have a future.

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