Despite challenges, Stelter sees bright future for journalism – SABEW19

Posted By David Wilhite on Saturday May 18, 2019

CNN’s Brian Stelter discussed his optimism for the future of the news industry, despite numerous disruptions and challenges in recent years.















By Derek Hall
The Cronkite School

News outlets and journalists continue to face an uncertain future in the wake of the digital revolution, an issue CNN’s Brian Stelter addressed at the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing spring conference Friday in Phoenix.

“It is an outstanding time to be a journalist,” Stelter said. “It’s also a really unsettling, unnerving, confusing time because we’re all swimming in this sea of information.”

The speed at which information is disseminated in the digital age has forced journalists to find new and innovative ways of reporting and telling stories in less time and often with fewer resources than ever before.

Stelter discussed the reality of practicing journalism in a time of disruption during SABEW’s state of the media session. It’s a topic that’s “perfect for Brian,” said Rich Barbieri, executive editor of CNN Business.

“Brian embodies this I think more than anyone in our field,” Barbieri said.

Stelter has covered the media industry for more than 15 years, beginning with the TV Newser blog that he created while a freshman in college. He later worked as a media reporter for The New York Times before joining CNN in 2013 as the anchor of “Reliable Sources” and the chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide.

While speaking to a room full of journalists Friday at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Stelter briefly highlighted some of the current problems facing the industry, like the rise of disinformation and the denigration of the media.

“There is an impact from that daily, repetitive lie about the press being the enemy,” he said. “I think, as a result, we are getting better at explaining why we do what we do…and explaining why the business model’s been turned upside down.”

Americans are largely unaware of the financial struggles many local news operations face, according to a Pew Research Center survey, which Stelter referenced.

Of the 34,897 U.S. adults that Pew surveyed in 2018, 71% thought their local news outlets were “doing very or somewhat well financially,” despite revenues that continue to fall and a drop in employment at newsrooms across the country.

Only 14% of those surveyed said they had paid for local news in the past year.

Reporters are keenly aware of the challenges facing journalism, but Stelter sees a bright future for the profession.

He said social media tools that have disrupted the news industry, like Facebook and Twitter, have also bolstered the marketing efforts of journalists and newsrooms in explaining the role of the press.

But the primary reasons for optimism and hope rest in the pillars of journalism, Stelter said. Many of the profession’s foundational principles such as doing no harm and advocating for the truth are as strong today as they’ve ever been.

“What’s exciting for all of us in this room is that we get to help solve the problems that we’re all facing, and we get to help explain to the audience why press freedom is also their freedom at a foundational level,” Stelter said. “People want and need that day-to-day journalism.”

SABEW - Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication,
Arizona State University

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