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Print journalism not so bleak

The future of the media is a daunting thought for many journalists. With newspapers and magazines suffering layoffs, it seems like the journalism industry is petering away.

But Michael Rogers says more people consume journalism today than they did 50 years ago. It’s all thanks to advancements in technology, the former futurist-in-residence at the New York Times says. The evolution will serve print journalism, not stall it, he adds.

“All that we’ve seen in journalism to date, over the past decade, is really just the beginning,” he said.

Rogers expressed these views at the University of King’s College last weekend. He was among several speakers at the seventh annual Joseph Howe Symposium.

The 300-seat Alumni Hall was filled beyond capacity, with some people sitting on the stairs. Many had their laptops popped open. First- and second-year journalism students placed their digital recorders in front of them – archaic devices compared to the photos of iPhones, virtual keyboards and futuristic goggles that flashed on Rogers’ PowerPoint presentation.

“We’re going to be connected constantly,” he said. “We’re going to want these mobile devices.”

But the print world, though suffering cutbacks, is far from a dying breed.

“We can take what we have and repurpose it for these new electronic devices,” he said.

He shows a picture of the Newsbook. An electronic device like the E-book, the Newsbook allows users to download content from newspapers and magazines. It creates a more focused and in-depth online news source.

Other speakers suggested print is still a stalwart in journalism.

“Newspapers are the weak slack under the bed of democracy,” said John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corp. “That weak slack of democracy… is bending under online pressure.”

But this new era of journalism – comprised of blogs and tweets – should not be confused with quality, well-researched news, he added.

“The loss of a vibrant newspaper culture can seriously affect the type of information the public perceives,” he said.

Donna Logan, president of the Canadian Media Research Consortium, agreed.

Under the “post-first, ask questions later” style of online journalism, quality and well-researched news is lacking.

According to the consortium’s study on the state of the media in Canada, news consumers have similar sentiments. Nearly 58 per cent of Canadians think newspaper content is mostly reliable, but only 34 per cent say the same for the Internet.

“Newspapers set journalistic standards for all media,” said Logan, referring to these findings.

Keith Stevens, a fifth-year political science student at Dalhousie University, says he still sees the value of print.

“There will still be enough people of our generation who will want to sit and read the paper every morning,” says Stevens, who came to the event with a copy of The Chronicle Herald.

He also likes Rogers’ idea of using online journalism first, then turning to print newspapers.

It’s a discussion that permeates many journalistic spheres.

On Oct. 10, the Canadian University Press – a university publication wire – held a conference for student newspapers in Atlantic Canada. The event, hosted at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, included several focus discussions. One of the topics was new media.

Doug Estey, arts editor of The Brunswickan, the University of New Brunswick’s newspaper, says The Globe and Mail has the print-versus-online situation cased. The organization breaks its news online, but uses print to explore these issues with grater depth.

After the speakers addressed the audience at Joseph Howe Symposium, they participated in a panel with The Chronicle Herald’s vice president of business development John MacCormack, The Coast’s editor Kyle Shaw and AllNovaScotia.com online managing editor Kevin Cox.

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