Sunday, January 08, 2006

QUOTES: Time for new "stewardship" in newspaper ranks?

QUOTES: Time for new "stewardship" in newspaper executive ranks?

An expert on the newspaper industry says its time for management to take seriously the concept of "stewardship" to the public. And another says papers may be better able to transition from print to web than some businesses faced with changing technology.

Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, and Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Jounalists, spoke Jan. 5, 2006 on the public-radio program, On Point, with host Tom Ashbrook. The 10 a.m.-noon weekday show is produced at WBUR Radio in Boston, where Ashbrook formerly was an assistant managing editor at The Boston Globe.


Ashbrook described the situation as "crunch-time for America's newspapers" in the windup for his interview with Clark, Rosenstiel and Peter Bahtia, executive editor of The Oregonian, the Portland, Ore., daily.
"One of the words I've grown up hearing in church is the word stewardship," said Clark, a former English professor and feature writer for The St. Petersburg Times who is now a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, the "think tank" for the newspaper-industry. He added: "I think it's time to sart using that word in talking aout the ownership and leadership of news organizations."

Clark said he often is asked in interviewed about individual reporters or columnists who have committed ethical breaches. He continued: "Discussion about ethics almost always focuses on these renegade individuals who hurt the credibility of news organizations. Isn't it time that we started not just accepting as a sort of a justification for cutting news resources adherence to the standards of Wall Street or the fiduciary responsibility to stockholders? What about the stewardship of a news organization as a kind of a public trust?"

Rosenstiel belives its an open question whether information will be delivered on paper in 10 or 15 years. He says newspaper companies need to realize the soul of their operation "is monitoring a community on behalf of citizens." The companies, he said, "need to persuade Wall Street and others, private bankers and others, that this is what their business is and they will continue to do that."

Rosenstiel cited the example of buggy-whip manufacturers as an industry which was not equipped to transition to providing resources for the automobile industry. But newspapers, he said, may not be in that situation, he told Ashbrook.

"Newspapers are in many ways the best equipped organizationally in terms of news gathering to make the transition to the online age," said Rosensteil. "What is not clear is whether they have the wherewithall psychically and creatively to make the transition and persuade Wall Street that they are the ones who should do it."

Dr. Roy Peter Clark
Vice President and Senior Scholar
Poynter Institute
801 Third Street
South St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: 727-821-9494

Tom Rosenstiel, Director
Project for Excellence in Journalism
1850 K Street NW -- #850
Washington, DC 20006

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