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Local journalists debate new media

Credit: Photo illustration by Celia Ludwinski/Contributing Editor Credit: Photo illustration by Celia Ludwinski/Contributing Editor

A diverse group of people with careers in media held a discussion called “New Media/News Media” in the Steinberg Auditorium last Wednesday. The six panelists spoke in front of a nearly full auditorium about the current state of media and the directions they see it taking in the future. The panel was held by the Center for Arts in Society, a collaborative effort between faculties in the College of Fine Arts and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences that explores the interaction of society and art.

The panel consisted of an editor from the Pittsburgh City Paper, a columnist and an editor from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a reporter from Essential Pittsburgh Radio, a blogger, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

Professor of art James Duesing introduced the program, and associate professor of English Kathy Newman introduced the panelists. An informal attitude prevailed, with panelists referencing each other and discussing the points others raised. The panel closed with questions from the audience.

Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh City Paper presented a slide show about his experiences integrating social media into his work. He explained the importance of distinctions between official and unofficial online presences for journalists by sharing a lighthearted tweet claiming that a local television reporter known for gross inaccuracies was not “a person at all, but 12 marmots bundled up in a suit.”

Potter also talked at length about website design for print publications. “Designers and writers are making America dumber by increasing white space and decreasing text,” he said. He ended his presentation by asking for donations for his newborn daughter’s college fund, exclaiming, “Print journalism is dead, everyone!”

Tony Norman, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, said that he does not believe print journalism is dead yet, but likened mainstream media to dinosaurs right before the asteroid impact, and blogs to the first mammals. However, he believes that after mainstream media loses its profitability, a series of “aspirational changes” will allow the industry to reclaim a unique environment similar to that found at tech companies like Google.

“We joke about the established media being dinosaurs and falling apart,” said John Allison, associate editor for the Post-Gazette, “but we’re resilient, we’re creating something people want.” Allison later said that while he was glad to be invited to give his views and learn campus attitudes through the tone of questions, he found that young people lack the “romance for print” his generation held.

Andrew Schwartz, a first-year information systems and statistics double major who attended the event, concurred, saying, “I get my information from my Twitter feed, I subscribe to Anderson Cooper, I subscribe to The New York Times.” However, he enjoyed and recommended the panel, although only for those with an interest or stake in journalism.

The other panelists were more hopeful for the future of media. Photographer Martha Rial explained her new affinity for journalistic slideshows that combined photography and narration. Award-winning blogger Maria Lupinacci went over how she managed to achieve success in the blogosphere, and explained how she believes the future of journalism will be a balance of traditional and new media.

Deanna Garcia of Essential Pittsburgh Radio said that while the future of all media, radio especially, seems to be somewhat unclear, Carnegie Mellon students may have an edge. “The mix of backgrounds and the strength of the programs here ... may mean that a student or professor here may know more about what’s going on in the world of new media than ... a station owner or editor,” Garcia said.