Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bloggers and Reporters Ponder "Journalism and New Media"

In the uncontrolled - and uncontrollable - world of Internet mass communication, the twisting branches of the modern grapevine are electronic pulses instead of whispers. The bunches of fruit are clusters of followers on social networks: blogs, Facebook, Twitter. "Likes," "shares," and "re-tweets" are the new shoots that help the grapevine thrive and spread.

But what about the root system of this new, sophisticated grapevine? How can the public be confident that a source of news and information is trustworthy? What is fact, what is opinion, and what is opinion disguised as fact – and how can one tell the difference? What are the challenges, opportunities, and foreseeable future of traditional news outlets? If, online, everyone is an opinion columnist, what happens to "news reporting" – that essential service of objectively presenting verified facts, without interpretation, analysis, or slant? Has the casual tone and spontaneity of online communication replaced the high standards of journalistic integrity?

Barbara Meagher, associate professor of journalism at the University of Rhode Island and former television investigative journalist, hosts a panel of five New Media writers and entrepreneurs, as well as crossovers from traditional journalism to the blogosphere, in the WSBE production JOURNALISM AND NEW MEDIA.

The program, taped before a studio audience of students in the political science and journalism programs at the University of Rhode Island, airs on WSBE Rhode Island PBS on Wednesday, May 25 at 8 p.m., with re-broadcasts on Friday, May 27 at 12:30 a.m. and Sunday, May 29 at 2 p.m. JOURNALISM AND NEW MEDIA also airs on WSBE Learn on Sunday, May 29 at 8 p.m., as well as Monday, May 30 at 3:30 a.m., and Tuesday, May 31 at midnight.

The discussion during the first half of JOURNALISM AND NEW MEDIA among panelists Joshua Fenton, Froma Harrop, Dan Kennedy, Ted Nesi, and Gregory Sullivan, spans a range of topics and challenges, including the differences between new and traditional media, viability of print media, the public demand for instant and constant access to news and information, ethics and fact verification, “citizen journalism,” writing and reporting standards, and media bias.

In the second half of the program, URI students step up to the microphone to ask the panelists an array of probing questions about how new media is affecting politics and journalism.

Selected quotes from the program:
"We're in this period of transformation… To say if you lost a hard copy of a newspaper, you've lost journalism [is] an absurd reaction…The reality is [people] can collect the same quality of information via smartphone, via laptop, via tablet…in a more immediate or dynamic and user-friendly way." – Joshua Fenton
"The more the information explosion happens, the greater the need for journalists who can take a story, do some investigation into…exactly what is accurate and what is not. That is the role…that's always been there and always will be." Gregory Sullivan
"My concern is money not coming in to support real journalism... Our civic culture depends on having government covered by a newsroom…My concern is that the public will not be able to appreciate the real journalism from…uninformed or opinion journalism." Froma Harrop
"The more…the community is digesting and discussing the content is incredibly important to a democracy." Joshua Fenton

Joshua Fenton is co-founder of the news and information Web site, With experience in politics, government policy, advertising, marketing, and public relations, Fenton is recognized for his special expertise in developing integrated communications. His awards for advertising and marketing excellence include a CLIO award, a Bell Ringer award, and recognition for one of his spots on the ABC television program "America's Best Commercials."

Froma Harrop is a nationally syndicated opinion columnist and member of The Providence Journal editorial board. A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary, Harrop was honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. New England Associated Press News Executives Association has named her for five awards.

Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor at Northeastern University's School of Journalism, contributing writer for the Boston Phoenix, and a regular commentator on media issues on WGBH's “Beat the Press.” His blog, Media Nation, boasts the following review by the Boston Globe: "Dan Kennedy... exercises the blogger's imperative to bloviate beyond his expertise."

Ted Nesi covers politics, money, and media for, since joining the Eyewitness News team in July 2010. Nesi started his career a reporter and columnist at The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, and was a reporter and online editor at Providence Business News. Nesi is the winner of two New England Press Association awards and was a fellow at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in 2009. He has also written for The Providence Journal and

Gregory V. Sullivan is the former corporate counsel for the New Hampshire Union Leader, an instructor at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, and an adjunct faculty member of Suffolk University Law School where he lectures about First Amendment issues and media law.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits over the air on digital 36.1; on Cox 08 / 708HD, Verizon 08 / 508HD, Full Channel 08, Comcast 819HD (check local Comcast listings for standard definition channels); on DirecTV 36 and Dish Network 7776. WSBE Learn transmits on digital 36.2; on Cox 808, Verizon 478, Full Channel 109, Comcast 294 or 312.