The way news is presented is evolving toward shorter, more concise stories, said Martin Di Caro, one of five panelists at a discussion for Ithaca College’s celebration of National News Engagement Day on Oct. 7.
Di Caro ’97, a reporter at WAMU 88.5 and WUSA TV in Washington, D.C., was part of a panel of professional journalists who spoke at the event. In addition to Di Caro, the panel included Pete Blanchard ’12, a reporter and anchor for WHCU News and Talk Radio; Andrew Casler ’11, a reporter for the Ithaca Journal; Josh Cradduck ’08, assignment desk supervisor at Time Warner Cable News and president of the Syracuse Press Club; and Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice. The discussion was moderated by Bob Kur ’70, a former NBC News National Correspondent, MSNBC Host and anchor at WTOP all-news radio in Washington, D.C.
National News Engagement Day is an initiative by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication designed to make engaging with news a national priority, according to the AEJMC website. Oct. 7 was the first National News Engagement Day, according to the AEJMC website.
During the panel discussion, Di Caro said it is difficult to convince consumers to read in-depth news articles, which he said has led to an increased focus on news that only tells the reader the essential information in the story.
“Every day is a challenge to win the attention of our audience, and we have to reach them in multiple ways,” Di Caro said. “What we risk, however, is that we’re only shooting them out snippets of news and that they’ll get used to that and that’s all they’ll want.”
Cradduck said producing short-form stories instead of long-form stories is something he deals with every day, as the network he works for covers five television regions.
He said it is difficult to thoroughly explore a topic when covering stories in any of those regions due to the sheer amount of information coming from each of them.
The panel also discussed the trend of major news providers reducing their amount of investigative journalism.
Kur began the event by taking a poll of the audience, which included over 70 students, faculty and staff, and asking them where they get their news. The predominant response was via online sources, often through Facebook and Twitter.
But Stein, who runs an online news source, said the trend of online news has its advantages.
“First and foremost, it’s a lot faster,” he said. “You can get people information instantaneously … we’re not tied to the constraints of a daily paper, we don’t have to meet certain word lengths.”
Casler provided a newspaper reporter’s perspective on the trend of online news. He said the Ithaca Journal, as well as other papers, are stretched thin due to the modern-day nature of news consumption, so they have had to make cuts. He said although it can be discouraging, newspaper reporters have to find what they are motivated to inform the public about.
Another topic of discussion was the popularity of less traditional news sources, such as BuzzFeed, which focus more on what is happening in popular culture and what is likely to attract consumers.
“It is certainly a great place for entertainment,” Blanchard said. “I think you’re seeing CNN go in that direction, focusing more on entertainment, on scandals and that sort of thing, and maybe not on news values so much.”
However, Blanchard said BuzzFeed does fall on the journalistic spectrum.
“I think you can be a journalist and write for Buzzfeed,” he added.
Senior journalism major Lauren Mazzo said the panelists brought up some of the concerns she has about going into journalism, but she said she thinks journalists need to be willing to adapt.
“I feel like that’s just the way society is going, and if we can find a way as journalists to get people the information they need while catering to their short attention span, that would be ideal,” she said.
Di Caro agreed, saying it is up to producers of news to recognize the changes necessary in the business.
“It is incumbent upon news agencies and companies to be ahead of the curb, not behind it, not be reacting to changes in the business model and to come up with their own business model,” he said.