Introduction

“Modern journalism began around 1890 with the advent of a national system of communication and has had a pretty long run. Its time now seems to be about up,” concludes Columbia University Professor James W. Carey.(1) The recent cutbacks at Times Mirror Co. and the shrinking audiences for television network news are fresh evidence that the news business is in trouble. The challenges generated by new media technologies provide a powerful incentive for the journalism community to get its house in order. This paper is the conclusion of a project conducted at The Annenberg Washington Program and draws from the Program’s conference “Changing the News.” It is in part a journalist’s “examination of conscience,”(2) that attempts to map out practical ways in which journalists might abandon some old habits, restore others, and invent some new ones to ensure a healthy role in our emerging multimedia culture. Ideally, these approaches will enable the news media to serve more effectively both their own market imperatives and the public interest. Some of the suggestions offered here may seem obvious; others may seem at first to be difficult or impractical. They involve mostly tinkering rather than radical changes. But together, these ideas aim to help journalists reverse a deterioration in the quality of news content that has made them increasingly vulnerable in the new media landscape.(3)