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Princeton’s future of news conference taught me who will save the news industry 5/15/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in futureofnews08.
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Since I am not up to the task of summarizing the tremendous amount of learning that flowed from Princeton’s future of news conference, I am grateful that the Guardian’s Kevin Anderson clearly is, as you can read here. That allows my final thoughts to focus not on what will save the news industry, but on who.

The conference taught me that those seeking to develop the future of news belong to a faith-based community that is highly passionate about news and shares a few beliefs in common: 1) Old Media news operations are unsustainable in the medium-to-long-term; 2) no one has proven answers; 3) now is the time for experimentation; and 4) there is no doubt that real solutions will be found reasonably soon. The belief we do not share is how great a loss it will be to democratic society when we lose journalism as it was. While some think of this as a minor tragedy, others say “don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

Thinking about the panelists themselves, I see among them traits that have made them leaders in their field, and that others hoping to survive the upheaval in news would do well to emulate. The Guardian’s Kevin Anderson combines infectious passion and a can-do attitude with technical and journalism excellence. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Mark Davis is a clear-headed business thinker with the diplomatic skills required to lure newsrooms away from a self-defeating journalism culture. The Nation’s Eric Alterman is a candid and charismatic political thinker who fits well with the coming age in which news will provide a multitude of voices engaged in healthy debate. Microsoft’s Matt Hurst blends boyish curiosity with a fully mature intellect that can drive innovation. Dan Gillmor and JD Lasica are calm, reassuring figures who inspire us to dare to fail.

And, I would be remiss in not praising the leadership of Princeton’s Center for Information Policy – Ed Felten, David Robinson, and Laura Cummings-Abdo. Their program has set the groundwork for policy development at a time when too few are thinking about it.

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