Highlights from Thursday’s Keynote

Rick Boehne, the president and CEO of E.W. Scripps Howard, delivered Thursday’s keynote address at the ACP/CMA convention here in Austin and focused on the future of the journalism industry. Here are a few takeaway quotes, a couple of which are his and a couple of which are not. All, I think, are pertinent.

  • “With every generation comes that energy and creativity to renew a business.” — An encouraging ray of sunshine from Boehne. He thinks that students today are the ones who will revitalize and revolutionize newsrooms in the next 10 years. He believes there are jobs available for students who have high energy and extreme doses of creativity.
  • “The Internet brings a free speech revolution like never before in human history.” — Take advantage of the Web. Simply and obviously put, it’s a resource for journalists. The trick, as always, is to put it to good use.
  • “In a world of chaos, wildness is always waiting to show itself.” — I think this follows from the first quote: Be energetic and creative. That’s what employers are looking for.
  • “Always sailing; never arriving.” — The journalism industry has been stuck in a morass for the last 1o years. Sure, print and broadcast outlets have adopted Web sites, and some news outlets do a decent job producing quality online content. But still, it seems like the industry is continuing its expedition but never reaching its destination. When will it catch up? Will it ever catch up? Heck, is it possible to catch up? Perhaps journalism will always be sailing, but at some point, the landing place will at least appear on the horizon.

Boehne also listed some winners and losers in the online journalism world and offered a couple of predictions for the future.

WINNERS

  • Free speech. How can free speech not win when the Internet serves as an outlet for endless commentary and opinion?
  • Diversity of voices.
  • Consumers and advertisers via the economic efficiency of the Web. There is a revenue model out there that will benefit consumers of online news and advertisers attempting to reach them.
  • The American public. More news is available.
  • Talented, storytelling journalists. Producing online content requires myriad skills, including writing, photographing, shooting and editing video, packaging, etc. If students know how to tell a story using all the tools available to them, they will find a place in the journalism industry.

LOSERS

  • Information gatekeepers/editors.
  • Traditional media companies.
  • Mediocre journalists and stenographers. News is instantaneous these days. Being the reporter and writer who simply jots down the notes and writes the same ol’ boring story is a path to failure. Find the novel angles, write the anecdotal lede, find the human nature in the story. Bring a quality, creative piece to the table.
  • The American public. Yes, we’re losers here, too. Boehne says the Internet will lead to fewer professional journalists in the short term.

PREDICTIONS

  • Internet audience measurement will improve and standards will develop. Boehne says it took the television industry more than a decade to develop a workable ratings system. Give the Internet time, he says, because a similar model will make itself available.
  • Local media consolidation will be required to sustain quality, professional journalism. Boehne says this isn’t a bad thing, and I agree. It’s certainly something we need to pursue more vigorously for Elon’s campus media.
  • Local media means local. It’s time to stop running the big national story on the front page of the local paper. Start focusing almost all of your time and attention on the news in your surrounding community. You have the opportunity to give people news they can’t get anywhere else. The war in Iraq? People can get that from The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, etc. But the story about the corrupt mayor in your small town? They’re only getting that from you.
  • Paid content models for the Web won’t support the current levels of content.

– Colin Donohue

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