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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    At Conference, Journalists Discuss Future of the Press

    As day two of the News Literacy Conference winded down on Mar. 12, Dean of the School of Journalism, Howard Schneider, introduced the speaker of the evening. An avid rock climber, motorcycle rider, Outward Bound participant and ultimately chairman and publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. took to the stage for his keynote address.

    “Six men have led the company,” Schneider said in his introduction, “None of his predecessors have faced these challenges.”

    The grim details about the journalism industry were brought to light — major cities left without competing newspapers, confused news consumers and a business model that is not profiting in ways seen in the past. But, even with these obstacles, Schneider pointed out Sulzberger’s grandfather saved The New York Times, his father stared down the Nixon administration and now, to many, The New York Times remains one of the most influential newspaper companies in the world.

    According to Sulzberger, the crisis that the journalism industry is experiencing is a little like the banking crisis. “We all know there are answers, we just can’t find them,” he said.

    The “volcanic explosion of the Internet,” as Sulzberger put it, has played a key role in the way journalism is changing.

    “I was the one who was there,” said Dexter Filkins, a New York Times Baghdad correspondent, in a video presented by Sulzberger. “You can blog all you want but in the end you don’t have much to say.”

    Even so, Sulzberger recognizes that Internet journalism is compelling and refuses to dwell on the way journalism used to be. “How people get the quality news will continue to evolve,” he said.

    The quality of news on the web is something that Sulzberger sees as being very important and comes into play with the News Literacy Initiative. According to a video on the School of Journalism’s web site, news literacy is “training the next generation of news consumers to think critically about what they read, see and hear.”

    Sulzberger recognized the importance of the news literacy initiative.

    “Your conference on news literacy sends a strong message that the journalistic and academic professions must do all that we can to keep our audiences, especially the younger generations, well-informed,” Sulzberger said. “Ensuring that our children not only follow the news, but understand what is happening. Our children need real journalism. The New York Times is proud to be part of your initiative.”

    And while Schneider noted in his introduction that everyone had been locked in the Wang Center for the 12-hour long conference, some didn’t mind. “The conference has been terrific,” said Harriet Copel, a teacher from Shoreham Wading-River High School. “It should have an impact on the way we structure journalism classes in high school and middle school.”

    The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook is working to spread the initiative to high schools. The program, planned for this summer, is looking for high school teachers to participate in the two-week intensive program about news literacy.

    “I do [conferences] with reservation,” said Stuart Loory, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism located in Columbia, MO. “I think that this conference was one of the best, if not the best. The subject matter looked into the future and there was not a dull moment.”

    When asked about the News Literacy Initiative, Loory continued, “That is what made it so interesting. Not much is being done, what is being done here is novel and avant-garde.”

    While some are truly pessimistic about the future of journalism, Sulzberger isn’t about to give up. “I am tired of reading about the death of — take your pick — journalism, newspapers, engaged readers,” Sulzberger told the audience. “What we offer is quite unique and will endure.”

    And while Sulzberger realizes the immediate future does not look too promising, he knows that there will be answers. “We know where we are and we know where we are heading. What we do not know is what’s exactly around each bend.”

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