For its relaunch, the Editors Weblog is running a series of exclusive interviews with some top editors at leading newspapers around the world about the future of journalism. We kick off the series with Jim Brady, Executive Editor of Washingtonpost.com.
The list of upcoming interviews will be updated as they are published (click here to view all interviews in this series). Among the other titles that have been asked to participate in these interviews are:
- The New York Times - Jonathan Landman (US)
- Financial Times (UK)
- Guardian (UK)
- Washington Post - Jim Brady (US)
- Globe & Mail - Ed Greenspon (Canada)
- The Times (UK)
- The Economist (UK)
- Gazeta Wyborcza - Jaroslaw Kurski (Poland)
- Le Monde (France)
- Die Welt (Germany)
- The Hindustan Times - Pankaj Paul (India)
- Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
- JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea)
- The Age / Fairfax - Mike van Niekerk (Australia)
- The Nation - Pana Janviroj (Thailand)
- Punch (Nigeria)
- El Tiempo (Colombia)
- Clarin (Argentina)
- Gulf News - Abdul Hamid Ahmad (UAE)
"News, journalism, newspapers: same past, different futures?"
- How long do you think you will define your company as a newspaper company or a print company?
To be honest, I don t think the company defines itself that way anymore. The Washington Post company made a statement about 3 months ago saying it was rebranding itself as a media and education company, since the Education division is now a bigger revenue-maker. Even within the newspaper division, which is still called 'newspaper', there is the website and the print product. There was another change last week to rename the company 'Washington Post Media'. WPNI and the print Washington Post are still separate subsidiaries within Washington Post Media.
- At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, a panel of futurists claimed that print newspapers wouldn't exist by 2014. To what extent do you agree with this?
Statements that broad are bound to be wrong. The Washington Post will absolutely exist in 2012, as will other big newspapers like The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. I do think you're already seeing midsized and smaller papers deciding to go the Web-only route. If you look at current online revenues, all newspaper companies are still struggling to make money on the Web. But since the publishing costs online are microscopic compared to print, and with newsprint costs going up many newspapers are figuring they can save a lot of money by going online-only.
Again, such a broad statement is absolutely wrong. But there will be a lot of newspapers in the next 5 years that go web-only, in the US at least.
- In journalism's multi-centennial history, do you view the emergence of digital journalism as part of the continuity, or as a complete breakaway with previous forms of journalism?
I think it's part of the continuity. New forms of delivery come up and previously existing forms need to adapt to these changes. There are now new forms of journalism and storytelling through video, picture galleries, databases and more. It's just a different way to deliver information. But in the past print, TV and radio have all figured out how to adapt and reposition themselves when new channels have emerged. Digital neither compromises nor changes the standards for journalism.
- Do you believe in the increasingly active role of the user in the news process, and is it a threat or an opportunity for professional journalists?
It's an opportunity. You can want to be a journalist to do the craft, but there is also an element of public trust in the mission. One of those two words is 'public'. We are in a position to allow the public in the process a little bit, so I don t see how that can be a bad thing. In some cases the interaction is a little nasty and confrontational, but I don't see how this interaction can be bad. All things have to be explored, and have to be collected. In the future, we will have both professionals and readers who can contribute to the newspaper. There is a distinction between both and it is important that the distinction remains, but engaging the audience is crucial to our success.
- Do you consider that the Golden Age of investigative journalism is already past, or just beginning?
Two ways to answer that: if you look at how newspapers staff investigative journalism nowadays, there is lot to worry about. Investigative journalism is considered like a luxury they can't afford to have. The Post has an investigative unit and I can't see that going anytime soon. But, coming back to the previous question, if journalists allow readers, not to investigate for them, but to help them flag and acquire easily accessible information, it makes investigative journalism easier to do than it was fifteen years ago, when the journalists had to make dozens of phone calls and go down to the public library. The ability of readers to participate in collecting the sheer amount of information can help investigative journalism.
The key is matching enough journalists working to the readers to take advantage of all the information out there. Once we figure out the sticky question of revenue models for the web, hopefully there'll be a building back up of newsrooms, as well as for the investigative staff, that have suffered in past 5 years.