Veteran journalists: profession at precipice

Tom Griscom, Howard Baker & John Seigenthaler

Tom Griscom, Howard Baker & John Seigenthaler

Venerable newspaper publisher and editor John Seigenthaler, retired from the Nashville Tennessean, joined with Chattanooga Times Free Press publisher and executive editor Tom Griscom for an after-dinner chat at The East Tennessee History Center Tuesday night. Introduced by former U.S. Senator Howard H. Baker Jr., the two seasoned journalistic leaders were asked to speculate on the future of newspapers. More than 60 people attended the fund-raising dinner for the History Center and 150 showed up for the journalistic conversation afterwards.

Here are highlights:

  • Griscom: “The newsroom of the future will have an editor, a couple of ‘gatekeepers,’ one or two special investigative reporters, and perhaps a couple of photographers and designers. Most of the news will be produced by lots of part-time employees and freelancers. The formal staff will greatly diminish as newspapers find it too expensive to pay salaries and benefits for full-time journalists.”
  • Seigenthaler: “We need to get journalists who are ‘complete’ journalists. Journalists who can take photos and video and write for print and broadcast. Many journalism schools are still training anchors. We need complete journalists.”
  • Seigenthaler: “We will always need journalists. Space on-line is unlimited.”
  • Both men said what newspapers are selling is credibility. That’s why Web sites run by media organizations are the ones with the most readers – they have the most credibility. “It’s about brand,” Griscom said.
  • Griscom: The rush to be first to post news on the Web has caused mistakes to be made. “I’m not sure on-line first is the way to go,” he said. “In the rush to be the first, we lost the pride in being right.”
  • Seigenthaler: “If you can get readers to chase news and columns to your Web site, you can get advertisers to chase news and columns to your Web site.”
  • Seigenthaler: Expect more consolidation of news outlets. More cooperation in news gathering between organizations. More pool reporting, especially internationally.
  • Baker: “We can’t do without news. We have to be informed. Must you be outrageous to make money? As with most things in life, the extremes are what sink us. What will happen next?”

Here are some of the folks who attended: former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, John Duncan III, Bob Campbell, Jim and Natalie Haslam, Bill and Barbara Arant, Walter and Julia Pulliam, Sherri Lee (the sponsor of the evening), Kelly Leiter, Dwight Teeter, Hank Dye, John Gill and Margie Nichols, Betsey Bush, Pete and Linda Claussen, Jack Williams, Jack McElroy, Georgiana Vines, Susan Williams, Bob Worthington, Don Stansberry, Jane Chedester, Jimmy and Mimi Smith, Debbie Brezina, Bill Owen, Carol and Ed Wheeler Jr., Jeannie and Peter Ullrich and Jim Ullrich.

Photo credit: Jack Williams

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4 Responses to Veteran journalists: profession at precipice

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  2. Mary Leidig, on May 13th, 2009 at 8:33 am said:

    Cynthia’s recap says it so well! To this humbled print reporter turned marketer – the whole night was an amazing gift. Oh, to download the brains of Seigenthaler, Griscom and Senator Howard Baker and wife Sen. Nancy Kassebaum. I could have listened to them all night . . .

  3. Annette Winston, on May 13th, 2009 at 9:42 am said:

    With this new dynamic, there will be a wonderful wide open market created for great writers. What a great result.

  4. Robert Parker, on May 14th, 2009 at 9:04 am said:

    Great information as usual from The Blue streak.

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