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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Ken Auletta Visits SBU: “Journalism is a kind of seduction”

He is most well-known for his column in the New Yorker Magazine, “Annals of Communications.” He has worked as a political reporter for the New York post, written eleven books and numerous biographies. On Thursday, the man behind it all, Ken Auletta, addressed a large audience at Stony Brook University’s Wang Center where he responded to questions about his personal career and achievements as well as the “technical revolution” as he described it, that is taking over modern media.

“Speed of change of technology is much more dramatic than it ever was,” Auletta said, as he gave an anecdote of interviews with people who he called the “drivers of change.”

Ironically, these people, like Bill Gates, are also the ones most terrified of this rapid pace of change. Auletta referenced a conversation with Gates, creator of Microsoft, who personally expressed fear of the development of technology and how this would affect his business.

Auletta just finished writing a book about Google and called the search engine “a library at my fingertips,” but was also quick to point out the downfall of this system. He explained that while having such a search engine is convenient, it has the issue of returning too many results that individuals are unable to filter through, which is why applications like Facebook are becoming more popular.

He also spoke about how modern technology is impacting on traditional media.  While the New York Times can afford to spend $7 million a year on correspondents in Iraq and Afghanistan, other papers do not have the same financial capabilities and media outlets can no longer rely on traditional sources of revenue like advertising.

Instead, alternative methods such as pay-as-you-go schemes and application models are being introduced for Internet media. Auletta insisted that while there is not a lack of audience or possible revenue, the media industry is no longer in control. To illustrate this, he used businesses like Amazon and their sales of e-books to exemplify how more competitors can reduce control of one concentrated source.

But his time was not completely devoted to talking about the impact of technology and he also answered questions from the host and audience members about his own career as a writer.

When asked about the quality of journalists now in comparison to 20 years ago, Auletta offered reasoning as to why he did not believe that modern journalism was of the same quality. He admitted that there is now a faster reaction to national and international events like natural disasters.

“Technology supports that,” Auletta said, however noting that there is also increased pressure on journalists to file stories with less time to research what they are presenting.

There is also pressure by more competition in the media industry.

“We work in a frightened industry,” he explained in reasoning why papers can no longer afford to cover the world, instead opt for stories about Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

“The citizen has a lot on his or her shoulders in deciding what’s true,” he said. “It’s a huge challenge.”

This “double-edged sword” of increased accessibility, yet questionable quality, is what drives Auletta’s own “media diet.” This daily intake consists of Internet media provided by Google in the morning, followed by four to six newspapers, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, throughout the day, however he stressed “I’m not addicted to it.”

“I tend not to go to Fox unless I want to get angry,” he said.

Auletta closed his address at Stony Brook by talking about the role of reporters in the media industry. As a political science major during his college years, he used this as a comparison to journalists who are often accused of having no loyalty.

“You’ve got to be tough” he said, as he pointed out that journalists need to be more ruthless than politicians on some occasions. They are obligated to tell the truth and are fulfilling a kind of “public service.”

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