tv The Future of News PBS December 8, 2011 4:30am-5:00am PST
>> this program is brought to you by a grant from the ford foundation... >> non-stop news around the clock. more stations, more choices. add in news websites, social networking, and instant communication, and the news cycle is spinning faster than ever. >> i remember when it seemed like the news cycle began to turn over twice a day, and now it turns over twice an hour. >> nothing drives the news cycle and cable news ratings like big stories, but the ratings race has led to more opinion and more partisanship, too. is that a good thing? does the news landscape need to change? if so, who can change it and how? non-stop news in the digital
age. that's our topic today on "the future of news." >> a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts is not an option for the united states of america. >> obviously, they want more opinion. look what they watch. look what they're watching at night. they're watching "o'reilly." they're watching glenn beck. >> how do we deliver the news that people need to conduct their daily lives, to be good citizens? >> from the newseum in washington, d.c., this is "the future of news." welcome to the night studio and our conversation about media and news in the digital age. i'm sonya gavankar filling in for frank sesno. today's guests have very different perspectives on the news media. chris matthews is a long-time broadcast journalist, a best-selling author, and of course is host of "hardball" on msnbc. jan schaffer is a print journalist and a pulitzer prize winner. she is now at the american university as the executive director of the j-lab, the institute of interactive journalism. welcome to you both.
let's start out with a very quick question: is there really anything wrong with 24-hour news cycle? jan? >> well, it doesn't serve all the citizens. in a democracy, people need different things than what you get on that 24-hour cycle, and i think that's become problematic, and i think we see citizens stepping up to the plate to try to fix it. >> chris? >> well, it is what it is. i think what i do is i get in my car in the morning, and i have satellite, which is great, actually, and then you can flip it around. i don't have msnbc on my satellite. they don't have it. but i usually start off with 60s music, which makes me happy, then i turn on, depending on the mood i'm in that morning, fox or cnn. i turn on fox sometimes to find the edge, where there's an argument going. i want to sense where the right is coming from and what they find appetizing in the news, so i can figure out where the biting story is from their perspective. cnn's obviously more objective so i turn on cnn to sort of get--it's like a news monitor. it'll tell me what the stories
are on the news budget, so i get the budget from one, and i get the attitude--or as we say in philly, atteetude--from the other, and i think people say they watch certain things and don't. they know the politically correct or the politically sort of sophisticated answer to things. "i don't like arguments on television." oh, yes, people do. they do. they like to be discernible and understandable and intelligent. they don't want people just yelling. but they do find an interesting argument valid because they find that that is what they argue about in their own family. these arguments are reflective of what's going on, and the opinion in this country is not uniform. we're almost like an argumentative country. they say in israel, everybody's the prime minister. well, it's almost like that here. everybody's got a point of view. >> does the normal news consumer, the everyday american--not chris matthews-- do they listen to the radio? do they read the newspaper? do they tune in to television news broadcasts? do they utilize the 24-hour news cycle? jan? >> i think they multitask with news. i think yes. i don't think they sit down and read the newspaper the way chris or i might read soup to nuts in the morning. i think they skim the headlines, they look at the
photos. i think they get more information from friends online. they get emails pushed at them from, "did you see this story? did you see that story?" they get news around the water cooler. they get news on the radio when, you know, they're driving to and fro. they get news from jon stewart at night in a different way. i mean, i think people are getting news in many different ways but not necessarily at a point in time like perhaps happened in the past. >> our regular host frank sesno had a long career in cable news at cnn, and he wanted to weigh in on this topic. he's in hong kong but taped this question for chris matthews before he left. >> chris, cable news channels have not had ratings success putting news shows on in prime time. you're very good at opinion. you're very good at the show that you do, but why do you think cable news channels have so much trouble doing news in prime time? >> well, i think, to answer frank's question, i think by a certain time of the night, people have the basic facts. i
sort of think around--i'm on at 5:00 east coast time, and by 5:00, they have picked up pieces throughout the day of the story that broke that afternoon, and i'm always--we're always worried that we'll miss that 4:00 story at 5:00. and so they know the story, they know the headline, and they may want to know some attitude about it or what the argument's about or why is this important or so what? answer the "so what" question. so they don't really need to have it taught to them again. now, there's still a big market for nightly news and world news and the evening news. there are some people that don't know what's going on all day or they want it produced in a really high-quality way. they love the production values of the broadcast. they really put a lot of money into this. i think they're making the money off cable and spending it on broadcast, but they certainly have the money to do these big charts, and they've got great correspondents, and you get a lot in a minute and a half. really heavily produced and highly edited and really well done. i mean, it's fascinating to watch the broadcast news, but younger audiences, i think, figure, they already got it.
they want to know what the argument's about. and they may want some more pizzazz. >> do we want more opinions? >> do they want--well, obviously they want more opinion. look what they watch. look what they're watching at night. they're watching "o'reilly." th're watching "glenn beck." i'm not sure what i'd call glenn beck. i mean, i just think it's inaccurate. >> well, how would you answer frank sesno's question? the question about is there not enough news in prime time? >> well, i think it's the wrong question. >> what question would you ask, then? >> i mean, i think that the question that we need to figure out how to answer and how to deliver on is how do we deliver the news that people need to conduct their daily lives, to be good citizens, to know enough to vote. i think some of the he said, she said construct and the conflicts leave people not knowing, well, who's--what's right and what's real, what's true? and it's difficult to navigate through that.
>> chris, agree? disagree? >> i think martin agronsky really started the format we're all used to, which is usually 3 or 4 people. now it's more diverse--men and women, people of different ethnic backgrounds. that's much improved the way it was 10 years ago or even 5 years ago, and i think the election of barack obama's had a real jolt to that. you got to have diversity, and local television has been great, really good at diversity. my wife was an anchorwoman here for 15 years. it's even created a different society around the newsroom because of that on-air need for diversity. it creates a different world you live in, you know. we all know that now, i think. >> jan, should there be a focus on local news and is anybody covering it anymore? >> i think that, especially in the regional metropolitan newspapers, there is less and less coverage of local news. there are fewer feet on the street, and in many ways, they are losing their portfolios. they don't cover national/international news anymore. they don't do the hyper local news anymore. they're kind of left with a portfolio of sports and a little bit of occasional investigative
stories, and it's not much left, not much left. >> the great papers you were talking about, the "inquirer," the great papers are just atrophying. >> yeah. >> so who's covering the local important news, then? >> well, i think we're increasingly seeing newly founded journalism sites cropping up. a lot of them are funded by foundations. some of them are funded by individual donors. some of them are funded by subscribers, members like those who contribute to npr, and they are starting to produce hyper local news and information for people in geographic communities. we're seeing the same thing happen with investigative projects. they're happening often state-wide, often anchored around the state capital, and i think as news moves into the future, we're gonna see a few national publications, and we're gonna see a lot of hyper local publications with some statewide investigative networks. >> jan, you won a pulitzer for public service because you actually brought change from the articles that you were writing. is that what they local sites are trying to do? are they trying to bring some sort of
change? >> well, i don't know that they have an agenda other than just to connect people in their community to what's going on, allow them to know what's happening. i mean, my goodness, i live in bethesda, but i can't tell you what's going on in montgomery county because it isn't in the "washington post," you know. and it's very hard to find out what goes on in your community nowadays. >> many of the studies that j-lab has done that says that news consumers give news organizations failing grades. why? >> i think that news consumers don't distinguish a lot between news and information. that's certainly a theme of one of our recent studies. they don't like conflict in the framing of the stories, and for us, for a big "j" journalist, conflict is sort of the very definition of news. if you walk into a meeting and people agree on something, you know, a reporter is likely to walk out of it and say, there's no story there. there's no story worth covering." i think that people want--they want to know
what's going on in the world. they want to know what's going on in their nation. they want to know what's going on in their community, and i think that--and i have to distinguish 'cause i work in two worlds. we talk about big "j" journalism and small "j" journalism. i think the big "j" journalism is doing a lot of repetition on the national front. i think they don't find a lot of small "j" journalism happening in their communities. >> what is the--where is that small "j" journalism happening? >> i think what's starting to happen, and it's very robust right now, is that we see both professionals and amateur journalists, so-called citizen journalists, starting to fill in the gaps of that coverage and starting to create community news sites, hyper local news sites, investigative news sites, niche newsites that have a lot of journalistic dna. it might not do journalism the way i was taught in journalism school, but it's also not irresponsible either. >> well, there's a lot of things happening online that are fun and fast and new, and i want to go over to our touch screen
really fast to show you one of those sites is newser.com. they're an aggregator with brains, and they want you to read less but know more. how do they accomplish that? well, through their grid, they can highlight the stories that are happening online and in newspapers right now. they take those stories and compress them into two-paragraph summaries. their founder, michael wolff, also writes a column on line in his "off the grid" section. he says that the newspaper industry is dying. let's give the consumer something new. one of those things that is new is customizable pages. use their great scroll bar to see the hard news and the soft news, and choose anything in between. let's go to the extreme for all soft and see what the grid gives us. that's pretty soft. celine dion and big bird. next up is jan's j-lab. they're transforming journalism today and reinventing it for tomorrow. in their cool stuff section they highlight some great things that other sites are doing: games, quizzes, as well as some maps. in their map section, they have
this great thing called trends maps. this is where you can find out what's happening on twitter as you watch, find out locally or internationally. click on the area you're interested in and see what's happening on twitter right now. highlight any one of the words to follow the conversation as it happens. jan, why is watching trends online so important to news? >> well, any good journalists knows that the actual story is in the pattern, not in just an event that's happening, and to pay attention to the pattern, you need to pay attention to the trends, and the trends are what really tells us what's connecting the dots out in the world, so anything that allows us to look at trends or look at the patterns is gonna deliver a better story. >> chris, are you watching trends? do you follow twitter? >> no, i don't really like any of that stuff. >> you don't like any of that stuff? >> no. i want to live a life-- [applause] and i like to be--i just heard a religious broadcast. it was kind
of a secular religious broadcast the other day. "live with the people you're in the room with." >> do you have your staff follow twitter? do you have them follow it? >> no. i really do think people should spend a portion of their lives in their lives, and the rest of life away from phones and with the people they're with. i really don't understand why somebody who has a tv show or is in the news business needs to twitter in addition to that. i mean, why do they have to be at every party? i mean that metaphorically. why do they have to be at every party? why have to know about every party? what is this greed for participation in everything and communication with everybody? i mean, pick a few friends. i mean, i don't understand it. i don't get it. i don't--i really do have a problem with blogging because this stuff that just comes in where somebody's in a basement, you know, having pancakes delivered downstairs by their mother and at the same time they're bringing down a government, i have a problem with them. i don't know who they are. i agree that there's really good work being done by politico and slate and some of
the others, but you know, i look at my--well, i don't even want to admit it--but if you google yourself, you're just basically committing hara-kiri. the nonsense that's put on as fact, and there's no way to track it down, and who are you gonna argue with, some 22-year-old nitwit who doesn't know anything at all and then makes up stuff, and then nobody's gonna challenge them on the fact, and it gets out there, and you have to deal with it. you have to check your wikipedia every couple years just to get the nonsense out of it because people just make--i wrote the malaise speech. well, i wasn't even a speech writer for carter when the malaise speech was given. just check that fact. >> jan-- >> i mean, there ought to be some basis for the statements made, and there isn't. that's my view. >> jan, is the news media following trends? who is actually following these trends? if chris matthews isn't following the trends, who's following the trends? >> oh, i think you find a lot of journalists, probably more print journalists than broadcast journalists, who will pay attention to trends, who will look at mortgage foreclosures or
what's happening in the banking industry or what's happening to executive compensation. all of those bespeak to various trends that are happening that need to have big "j" journalism done to them, and i think they are having big "j" journalism done to them. >> and what about the 20-year-old who's twittering about waffles in his basement? is that something that should be followed by the news media? should they be paying attention? >> that's not news. that's not news. >> so there's a difference between what's on twitter and facebook and all these other social media-- >> no. there's some news on twitter and facebook, but not everything that's on twitter and facebook is news. and you know, you shouldn't just overly fret about it. >> but let me get back to something, that why there's roiling waters and why a lot of people in this room have an attitude about the media, one way or the other. conservatives in this country believe that the media was liberal for years, and they were right in this sense. not that the media was left wing. it was never left wing. it was always very establishment. it was always between the 40 yard lines, and the deviation between what you might call some
golden mean of objective truth and liberalism wasn't that different. but walter cronkite was a liberal, and his point of view was establishment liberal, and barry goldwater was treated as an oddity by the major networks. barry goldwater is--cronkite would say it, and you can get the old tapes out. "barry goldwater said today..." i got it. there's something wrong with the guy. there was a sense he was off the--off somewhere. he wasn't really somebody to be respected intellectually. and the media was like that, and prime time television is very secular, it's very liberal. it's liberal on things like gay rights and respect for gay people and for all kinds of things. you never see anybody saying on "frasier," "i got to go to church now." it just was that way. and i think a lot of conservatives say, "that doesn't represent my life. i've got to offer--so when fox came along, they said, fair and balanced. and everybody knew that was a joke. nobody really believes it's fair and balanced. nobody who watches it believes it's fair and balanced. they believe it balances off the liberal media, and they think it's fair only in the sense that it's getting even. they don't
believe it's fair and balanced. yeah, i'm sure. that's why i don't trust a lot of polling because, yeah, sure it's fair and balanced. yeah, right. what do you want to hear? so i think there's this balance for some reason. this is the reason. radio is conservative and cable's conservative generally, with the exception of msnbc, and i think i'm the only show on cable television that actually has an argument on everything every night. most shows give you the liberal or the conservative point of view. they do. and our show gives you the combination and the conflict. i think. >> jan, your organization and the pew organization have actual numbers for who is watching what networks and what broadcasts, and for fox news, the number's like 34% classify themselves as democrats, so would you agree wihas isaying? >> no, i would not agree with what chris is saying. i actually--we just released some research the beginning of last week based on focus groups that was fascinating to me as we brought in a bunch of news consumers and news creators to
talk about what they valued in news, how they got their news, how they interacted with the news, and in every single group, they mentioned the bbc. every single group. in none of the groups did they mention abc, nbc, cbs. cnn was mentioned, but it was quite surprising to me, and what people said to us is, you know, it's really nice to hear news from the bbc because we get an entirely different picture of what's going on in the world than we get from our own media in the united states. >> we'd like to show you now courtesy of the newseum archives the very beginning of cable news. it was june 1980, cnn's first broadcast. the 24-hour news cycle was about to begin. >> zoom in a little bit. roll tape. take 3. >> in june of 1980, a small atlanta company went on the air with a revolutionary experiment in television news. >> here's the headlines to this minute. the ayatollah khomeini... >> using satellites and cable,
cnn took on the broadcasting giants with a simple but brand-new idea: all news all the time. >> you can depend on us being here all the time. >> ♪ experience life on cnn ♪ >> cable news network was the brainchild of ted turner. >> i had more courage than good sense. i was very young. i just figured i could do anything, and i could, and i did. >> for all turner's bravado, cnn was mocked by its critics for its low budget, inexperienced staff... >> here it is. ok. we need this little thing to talk. >> and rookie reporters. >> at billy bob's texas, you can always ride a bull, and i don't mean mechanical. >> people were calling us chicken noodle news and that we weren't real. but basically what they were trying to do is stop us any way they could. >> jan, where were you when cnn went on the air? >> i was the business editor of the "philadelphia inquirer."
>> were you watching? >> yeah, yeah. i mean, ted turner is the ultimate news entrepreneur. i mean, he invented it, and i think a lot of people are following in his footsteps today. >> chris? >> i think the great thing about cnn, and it really hasn't been replicated, it's worldwide. i mean, we go to war, and the other side's watching cnn as we go to war. we don't have an msnbc. i wish we did. i wish one of the major broadcast nets would go international. we have the greatest thing in the world in our country--the english language. it's the greatest means of transmission known to man's history, the english language. it's everywhere. and we're not using it to transmit, at least, the way we look at things. >> we have some audience questions now, so let's go to our first one. go ahead. >> whatever happened to labeling news, analysis, and opinion? i come from the cronkite/huntley/brinkely era when i expected a commentary once in a while from these network cables, but when it came out, it was labeled. is the
demand for viewership and money the reason the labeling went away? >> jan, i'm gonna start with you on that one. >> no, i don't think it's that clear cut. i do think that there has been a lot more morphing of commentary and viewpoints into journalism right now. i'm not always sure that's all bad. i mean, even as a hard news hand, i find myself nowadays, if i'm looking at political coverage, and looking at the he said, she said kind of coverage, saying, you know, i can't make sense of this anymore. i really don't know what to believe, and i will go to the op-ed page that i never read when i was younger just to find some viewpoint to help me navigate what's going on in the world, so i don't think that's all that bad, but i agree that we could have it more forcefully labeled. >> i think people watch me to find out what i think. and if they don't care what i think, they don't watch me. so if you don't care what i think, don't watch me. no, really. i mean, i think that's an obvious thing. why would you watch "hardball" if you didn't care what i thought? >> but does that mean the whole
"i should consider every program either opinion or news? >> on msnbc, starting at 5:00 at night, i would assume commentary would drive the show. i would assume that now on all cable shows, and the ones that don't have a show with this commentary, which is strong, they're dying. >> another question from our audience. >> discuss how you feel about the urgent overtaking the important. >> the urgent--i guess you mean ratings. we're always aware of ratings, sir. we get them every afternoon at 4:00 for the day before. i don't always see a comparison of any value between the numbers the day before and what we did the day before. my view is give 'em information where there's poll numbers, something they didn't know. i have a thing on my sunday show, "tell me something i don't know." i really think 90% of television is still giving people something they didn't know before they started watching it, or else they'll stop watching it. >> jan, does revenue drive content? >> i think revenue has driven
content. i think the conundrum that we all face right now is that there's a lot of fatigue that sets in very quickly, and when you get so much "me, too," news happening again and again and again, and you just don't want to hear it anymore, and you tune out, and i think that there is-- the difficulty that i think journalists have not solved is that are very important issues in society that we would refer to as your sort of "eat your broccoli" journalism, things that people really need to know but may not be so interesting to read about, and the dilemma that we face is how do we make that interesting and important enough for people to pay attention to without having all this yelling and screaming about it. >> another question from our audience. >> my question for either one of you is about rules. are there any rules left? do any rules apply to anything? >> who makes the rules and who's following the rules? >> i work at the intersection where new rules are being created right now, and most of this is in the digital media space and in the online media
space, and it's a very different kind of ecosystem. we are finding a much greater appetite for collaboration in this space. instead of scooping or exclusives, we're finding media willing to work together and sharing content, which is one unheard of in my old days in journalism. we're finding new definitions of news, new definitions of objectivity and what it means to be objective, so eveas you see some of the old rules playing out, i think bubbling under the surface is a lot of experimentation with new rules and how they're gonna play out. and a lot of that, by the way, includes some level of participation or crowd sourcing from people in the community, from people formerly known as the audience. >> chris, i get to ask the last question. you ready? when you watch "saturday night live," and they're doing you, how does that make you feel? >> keep it up.
>> does it make you laugh? >> oh, they've stopped doing it. i mean, i just think i'm not that hot anymore to them, that younger audience. i mean, that young audience is 20 years old, and i think "saturday night live" has been better...back then when they did me. [laughter] >> well, we're out of time. thank you so much, jan shaffer, chris matthews. thank you so much for joining us. that's all for today. join us next time from the night studios at the newseum in washington, d.c. i'm sonya govankar filling in for frank sesno. thanks for joining us.
♪ ♪ (jane joyce) glacier national park is one of north america's most spectacular mountainous regions with more than 1500 square miles of glacially carved terrain and unspoiled wilderness. but a visible change is taking place here. many of the glaciers that exist at the park today are mere remnants of what they were 150 years ago, a direct result of a warming climate. in 1850, there were about 150 glaciers
in glacier national park. that was the end of the "little ice age" when many of those glaciers had built up. since that time, with warming temperatures, those have been reduced to less than 37 named glaciers. some of them, even the larger ones, are only 1/3 the size they used to be. so we're seeing some real changes in the mountain landscapes of glacier national park. those that you see in picture postcards and so forth are gradually, little by little, disappearing. (jane joyce) at the current rate of melting, scientists predict that by 2030, the massive ice formations glacier national park is famous for will vanish. the rapid retreat of glaciers here, as well as other mountain regions worldwide, provides solid evidence that our planet's climate is warming. for "our changing planet," i'm jane joyce. to learn more about our changing planet, visit us on the web at. . .