Communications Week: The Reshaping of Media
Katherine Wilk
kwilk@radford.edu

Walter Rugaberger

Radford University was introduced this past week to many of the issues facing the future of communications and journalism. Prominent members professionally involved in the world of communications spoke on the dissipation of newspapers, the incline of civilian journalism and how advertising has expanded to mobile devices.

RUGABERGER–
Walter Rugaberger is a big name in the industry. As the former owner of the Roanoke Times he has seen the challenges of news media first hand. And at one time his reporting broke one of the largest stories in America.

The Watergate scandal shocked America and few know that Rugaberger was the main man behind the break. His work propelled two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodword and Carl Bernstein into the depths of the investigation and later allowed them the fame of the journalistic investigation. He spoke with an air of modesty in regards to The Post.

“It certainly wasn’t just me,” Rugaberger said. ” The Post deserved the credit they got.”

To Rugaberger the media has changed a lot from the Watergate days. The close involvement of media internally has now expanded to what can be described as “citizen journalism” where the public takes mass media and communication into their own hands. Afraid of the effect on the future of news, Rugaberger pushes for a focus on fact-checking and retraction of opinion.

“Where is the quality of news coming from?” Rugaberger said. “Certainly not from the blogosphere, [but] consistent professionals. Citizen journalists will be the future of news [unless] their hot-headed opinions seep into their work. But I don’t think we’re going to give up on professional journalism.”

Still, Rugaberger has faith in the future of journalism. He insists the content value will push the news back into the limelight, resetting the standard.

“We depend on professionals to give us the best selection, to follow up on things, to put things in context,” Rugaberger said.

He imposed upon the crowd a solution for newspapers who are shutting down left and right. As the internet continues to threaten the life of print journalism, according to Rugaberger the conversion to online news won’t actually kill the media. Giving media a new context and deciding on a set price for information may be essential. Rugaberger insists on the idea of news-unity.

“The readers payments don’t even cover the cost of ink,” Rugaberger said. “It’s not going to be an easy transition. There may be new opportunities in new enterprises.”

The New York Times have announced their coming cost of their online content to be in place by 2011.

His greatest piece of advice for the young journalists filling the auditorium? “Develop an intense curiosity about everything. Find out how things work.”

“As newspapers get more desperate they may start to try harder. [And] despite the growing threat to newspapers, news will be just fine.”

ETHRIDGE:

Craig Ethridge

As the news takes it’s step online it’s facing another competing outlet: smart phones. The overwhelming amount of individuals carrying the latest technology are in demand of information literally at their fingertips.

Craig Ethridge, Vice President of Mobile and International Media Sales for Weather.com, spoke to members of Radford University’s School of Communication on his views of the growing advantages of news media spreading mobile.

The recent Haiti earthquake shook the world, but it was the cell phones, smart phones and mobile media that helped soothe many cries for help. After the Red Cross set up text-able donation they raised more than $25 million, and of that $500,000 an hour during the NFL games over Jan. 16 and 17. The ability for individuals to donate and help others through a simple text is an incredible technological advantage in today’s society.

Overall, 63.2 million people access their news and information through today’s mobile devices. Individuals have the ability to multitask and get their news on the go. The mobile media has opened up a whole new profession for aspiring journalists.

Advertising has expanded to specifically targeting demographics through zip codes and interactive ads.

“We’re fighting for the customer relationship,” Ethridge said.

Many businesses have taken advantages by targeted their consumers directly. A new feature for companies is the ability to alert customers to sales and locations straight to their phones.

The world of communication is changing drastically, whether from the decline of print journalism or the growth or mobile news, however the overall vibe is to be hopeful, look ahead and stay involved with the news.

“Just give them the news,” Rugaberger said. “They’ll figure out what they think about it.”

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