Sunday, January 08, 2006

Feisty dialog or comfortable cocoons? CBS News exec considers journalism future

MP3 of panel at "We Media":

(summarized by Bill Densmore)

Will consumers engage in feisty dialog or retire to cocoons of comfortable opinion as a result of new information technology? That's the question posed by Andrew Hayward, president of CBS News. Hayward was part of an Oct. 5, 2005, panel at the "We Media: Behold the Power of Us," conference at The Associated Press headquarters in New York City. And Hayward says its the central issue journalism must face.

The conference was organized by The Media Center, the think-tank arm of the newspaper publisher-sponsored American Press Institute. His comments were made generally.Here is Hayward verbatim, as transcribed from the MP3 download of the the panel he was on:

"We're at the very early stages of development in the democracy that could go one of several ways. At its best, the disaggregation of content, the lowering of barriers of entry to news, and information and opinion providers are in fact a very good thing that could recreate the kind of feisty dialog that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the town meeting model for our democracy.

" . . . [A]t its worst you will have an atomized world in which people have, or chose, access only to the things that they are interested in and you will have a completely splintered society where even though the information is available, for those who are actively willing to seek it, to learn about public affairs, most people will live in a comfortable cocoon of their own self-reinforced opinions and it's going to be even harder to reach consensus on the issues of the day.

"And I think we have to grapple with those contradictions and discuss them rather than, recycling what to me are fairly familiar criticisms. It's not that they aren't valid. They're familiar because they've been around for a long time. But i think looking ahead is a lot trickier than looking in the rear-view mirror."

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