Dallas Morning News Publisher Discusses Media Convergence in the Newsroom
Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO, Dallas Morning News
"Can you see the difference?" he asked, holding up two photographs, one taken by a Canon EOS-1D, the other a still from a high-resolution video camera. We dutifully examine the photos and agree that they are nearly identical. "When I saw this, I knew that it would change the way that photographers work in our newsroom forever," said Jim Moroney (MBA ‘83), publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News.
At a recent College of Communication advisory council meeting, Moroney spoke to the advisory council on the effects of media convergence on the traditional newspaper business. In the newspaper industry, the consumer is now in control – the reader expects news and information to be available any time, any place and on any device. And they want it customized for their interests. Since traditional print circulation has been declining since 1970, Moroney believes that the ability to adapt to today's digital age will be critical for newspapers who wish to not only survive, but to thrive.
"If you're a newspaper company, you're in trouble," Moroney said. "If you're a news and information company, opportunities abound. Traditional newspaper companies have some real strengths: important and recognized brands, deep relationships with core customers, strong relationships with many advertisers, a powerful engine for creating content, and expertise and experience in editing aggregated content. The key is using those strengths across the many content platforms that now exist."
The Dallas Morning News is taking a comprehensive approach to the digital age by focusing first on audience segments, not on product. Moroney says they are striving to understand what each segment wants and needs, and changing current products or developing new products to meet those wants and needs.
While developing these new products in an age of ‘democratized media,' Moroney stressed that credibility becomes even more important. Publishing has become something of a free-for-all, and the value of ‘trusted sources' will increase significantly. "If you can get it right and get it first, great; otherwise, get it right first," he added. "Again, trust and credibility are essential."
As the photography example illustrates, the culture in the newsroom is changing as well. With the changing technology, photojournalists can no longer just be still photographers. Moroney says that the Dallas Morning News is offering their photographers cross training in other graphics software, including Final Cut Pro and Peak DV. Most of the staff photographers are jumping at the opportunity, which allows them to be both photographers and videographers when out in the field reporting. A photographer can not only video a live event, but can also turn the camera on themselves to create on-the-spot reporting that can be quickly uploaded to the Dallas Morning News Web site. High quality stills can be pulled for use in slide shows or print editions. In general, Moroney says, photographers have been enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn new skills and to expand their professional repertoire.
The changing environment also has implications for the way the School of Journalism trains students. The fundamental principles of journalism haven't changed: students must be grounded with strong ethics to produce fair, accurate and balanced reporting. But students must also be well versed in the new mediums.
"The Internet is neither a newspaper online nor a television station online," Moroney said. "We must treat it as a separate distinct medium. And just as the college prepares students to be newspaper journalists in ways distinct from how they train television news journalists, the college must teach Web journalists distinctly as well. Above all, students must be able to tell stories well in multiple media: text, graphics, photo, video and audio."
Aspiring journalists should also develop critical thinking skills and core discipline learning: history, economics, political science, philosophy and business basics. It's not enough to just learn the basic skills of the craft of journalism. Technological proficiency is important as well. Students should have a good grounding in graphic software skills: Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, PeakDV and Final Cut Pro. And of course, no matter which area of journalism students enter into, they must be able to write well and provide good context for their readers.
For aspiring journalists and news organizations that are able and willing to adapt to the digital age, Moroney believes the future will be filled with opportunity.