Robert Smith photos for the Huntington News, courtesy of Smith

‘People already expect to get any information they want, any time they want it, wherever they are, and do it on a device they can slip into a pocket or wear on their wrist. Media outlets will have to be single-mindedly focused on the mobile experience.’

-- Marty Baron

Baron: Future of news
is in the audience’s hands

Continued from Home Page

“People already expect to get any information they want, any time they want it, wherever they are, and do it on a device they can slip into a pocket or wear on their wrist,” Baron said. “Media outlets will have to be single-mindedly focused on the mobile experience.”

He also thinks that it’s not enough to simply display the same print news on the Web. Baron urges news-media companies to see the Web as a different medium that requires its own style and structure of writing, just as radio, broadcast and print journalism do.

Communication on the Web should be more casual and conversational, more accessible, and use multimedia tools to the fullest, he said. Online readers like to connect with the author, and having a voice or personality will make that connection, Baron said.

Another theme he sees for the future of the news media is the changing identity of the dominant news outlets. Companies that adapt best to the new mobiles society, even newcomers, will quickly find success in the industry.

“Venture capital has poured in to fund other competitors, and that is betting money. Those are bets that newcomers can topple veteran brands. And some of the old brands are posing challenges of their own, and I would proudly put the Washington Post of today in that category,” Baron said. He mentioned BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post as successful online competitors to legacy news outlets.

Baron said he has some concerns for the future. His biggest concern is what he called alternate realities.

“Now people have their own facts, or what they believe to be facts, which align neatly with their worldview, and mainstream media are seen as hiding these ‘facts,’ ” Baron said, referring to various conspiracy theories, including the U.S. government being responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; Obama being a Muslim and not a U.S. citizen; and even the Newtown, Conn., school shootings being a hoax to advance efforts for gun control.

Baron sees adherence to those types of alternate realities as the biggest challenge that lies ahead for a career anchored in accuracy and facts. To combat that, he suggested always sticking to the mission of spreading the truth, regardless of whether it is popular or suits powerful interests.

Aoun prompted Baron to discuss President Barack Obama’s holding the news media accountable for creating the alternate realities and ideological networks that some people follow.

Baron accused Obama of a “high level of hypocrisy” on that subject. Baron said Obama has mainly done interviews with outlets that do less original reporting, are click-driven, and align with Obama’s political views. Baron said Obama has not done an interview with the Washington Post since the end of his first year in office, despite the Post’s frequent requests, and that many other major news organizations also have not been able to interview Obama.

Aoun asked Baron was what kinds of skills journalists new to the profession need for the changing world Baron described.

“It used to be in our business that we tried to hire people who would learn from us,” Baron replied. “Now we look for people who can teach us something we don’t know. We also look for people who can use a lot of the new tools we have and are not intimidated by technology, but embrace it.”

Besides asking Baron to look ahead at the future of the news media, Aoun wondered what lies ahead for Baron himself, and whether teaching was in his future.

To which Baron quipped: “I don’t know. Would I have tenure?”

While the event was lighthearted at times, the message Baron said he hopes to get across was one of urgency.

“We do not have much time,” Baron said.

He urged current and future journalists to take on the challenges that the future holds.

‘It used to be in our business that we tried to hire people who would learn from us. Now we look for people who can teach us something we don’t know. We also look for people who can use a lot of the new tools we have and are not intimidated by technology, but embrace it.’

-- Marty Baron


POSTED 4/14/16


 



© Copyright 1998-2016 New England Newspaper and Press Association. All rights reserved.