President's Roundtable discusses future of journalism

CNBC President Mark Hoffman says the written word will not die.
A panel of academic, journalism and business leaders discusses communication in the digital age at the President's Round Table on Friday in Jesse Auditorium. The round table discussion, featuring several professionals and corporate leaders, was part of the School of Journalism's centennial celebration.

As part of the School of Journalism's centennial, a group of eight major players in the communications world met for a panel discussion to examine the role journalism will play in an increasingly digital future.

The President's Roundtable, moderated by CBS News anchor and MU graduate Russ Mitchell, included UM system President Gary Forsee, several MU graduates and other figureheads in communications technology.

"Journalism as we know it is over," said Amy McCombs, Women's Foundation of California president and CEO.

Ralph de la Vega, AT&T Mobility president and CEO, said people are moving into a society in which wireless devices are indispensable. CNBC President Mark Hoffman, however, said this evolution does not change the role of journalism.

"The written word will not die," he said. "Things will change. There will be the written word in paper form and the written word on a device."

Carol Loomis, Fortune Magazine senior editor at large, said younger generations are moving away from print to more mobile media.

"You've seen other countries stage demonstrations from text messaging," she said. "You will find among younger people a distaste for newspapers."

Forsee said modern journalism should encourage dialogue, not a monologue, which is the case with reading a traditional newspaper article.

The panel also explored modern media in relation to citizen journalism.

"Citizen journalist strikes me as amateur physician," Motorola Chairman of the Board David Dorman said. "How is it going to evolve so that it's safe?"

Other panelists, including Hoffman and de la Vega, said journalists can trust the public to sort out the credibility of blogs and citizen journalism.

"People do go to multiple sources to validate what they're hearing," said Susan Bostrom, Cisco executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

De la Vega said there are very good blogs on the Internet as well.

Later, at the dedication ceremony for the new Reynolds Journalism Institute, Fred Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, commented on the evolution of journalism over the past half century.

"I can hardly recognize the industry for which I worked for 45 years," he said. "We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with change."

RJI will serve as a research laboratory of modern journalism, according to the ceremony's program.

At the panel discussion, McCombs said students now play a vital role in their own journalistic education.

"Today answers are going to be from the students," she said.

Fleishman-Hillard President and CEO Dave Senay mentioned an 1852 quote in reference to the birth of the telegraph in relation to the death of print journalism: "Newspapers may as well accept their fate."

More than 150 years later and after a 90-minute symposium, no member of the President's Roundtable could offer a clear vision for the future of journalism, only theories.

"Anyone who tells you they know what's going to happen is just blowing smoke," de la Vega said.

Hoffman said journalism will live on in one form or another.

"It doesn't matter what size it comes in, if you build it people will read it," he said. "Journalism is going to be here forever."

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