How Can Journalism Survive? With jobs disappearing from all forms of news media, the journalism industry may need to rethink its business model. The Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism shares his plan to save journalism.
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How Can Journalism Survive?

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How Can Journalism Survive?

How Can Journalism Survive?

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Clearly, journalism is not an easy business to be in right now. Layoffs are plenty all around. Money is tight. It may be time for a new way of doing things. That's what's being taught at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. That's where I learned the trade a decade ago. Neil Henry is the dean there, and he's also the author of "American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media." I spoke with Dean Henry about the changes he's making in the journalism school's curriculum in the face of a downsized media industry.

Dean NEIL HENRY (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; Author, "American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media"): We certainly are making them aware of how difficult the times are in the industry; at the same time, repositioning the school to train the students in the most versatile set of skill sets they can acquire. So, they're learning reporting and writing skills that we've traditionally supplied here. At the same time, they're learning the most advanced digital skills that you can imagine in order to make careers for themselves if there aren't jobs out there in the industry.

COHEN: When you say students going out there and making a career for themselves, can you explain this model a little bit? Because it's a newer model. I think of journalists being out there as individuals as opposed to one member of a big body like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Dean HENRY: I think it's going to be increasingly important for our students to be equipped not just in traditional journalism values and standards, but also to set themselves up as their own entrepreneurs of their careers. And I think our students are going to be playing a leading role in not only providing news content, but also helping to determine what is going to be the new business model for journalism.

COHEN: Some journalists, especially those of us who have been in the industry for awhile, get a little bit queasy when we hear things like, journalists are going to become entrepreneurs or you're blending that world of the business world and the journalistic world. Are there concerns about whether or not it will be pure reporting if advertising is being treated as content?

Dean HENRY: Certainly. When I mean entrepreneurship, I mean not sort of just the business aspects in making profit, but also the entrepreneurship that is required to engage audiences - getting out into communities, finding out what people actually want in their news and information - because the whole landscape is changing so quickly. And we're trying to establish collaborations with the business school as well as the computer science to see if there is a level of traction and a kind of business model that we can offer local news stations.

COHEN: You know, there are plenty of people out there that hear about layoffs and closures, and they say, good riddance. You know, journalism has really become a mess. There are complaints, and many of them are valid, about bias or plagiarism, a host of other concerns. So, what's the argument here? Why is journalism, an old-school journalism, still an important thing in this day and age?

Dean HENRY: Well, it's important because there is a difference between light and dark, and all kinds of things can happen in the dark. Journalism, certainly professional journalism conducted according to high standards, is the best possible light you can have in a democracy. Earlier this - last year, actually, two reporters for the Washington Post, as you know, exposed a lot of abuses and wrongdoing at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington where war veterans were being not terribly well taken care of. This is a perfect example of why journalism matters and why the public will miss it if it continues its free fall. And you might say that you aren't really missing anything if you don't know it. Well, I think the recent story about the Illinois governor and the extraordinary corruption that appears to be the state of things in politics in Illinois show what can happen if there isn't the light of accountability that the fourth estate can provide.

COHEN: Neil Henry is dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Thank you, Neil.

Dean HENRY: Thank you, Alex.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: NPR's Day To Day continues.

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