Society of Professional Journalists – The Conference

September 4, 2008

I didn’t mean to make the title of this post sound like so many of the movie URLs coming out of Hollywood these days, but it’s accurate. I’m going to give you a bit of the flavor that I’ve tasted while at this professional journalism conference in Atlanta.

New Media is NEW to the traditional journalism hierarchy. Don’t freak out if you’re a Twitter lover or someone who sees blogging as the next vehicle to connect the public with the stories of the day, your methods are coming. But, when it comes to the Internet the news media is only online to connect with colleagues, run down facts, ferret out sources and maybe have a little fun.

In the last session I attended today, Pulitzer Prize winner and newspaperman Hank Klibanoff told us that everyone should be worried about the demise of the newspaper and the value it brings to society. He agreed that in some cases a blogger can deliver the news as effectively as a reporter, but journalists are trained to respect ethics, to report facts and not to infuse articles with opinion.

His main point was that when talk-show hosts and other “liberal media” haters drum the papers out of town, there won’t be anyone left to keep things in check in government and society. And government is one entity that the talk-show hosts hate more than the media.

Contrary to popular belief, newspapers and news outlets are hiring. But mostly for low-paying and no-paying positions as interns and Co-ops. I sat next to Ms. Parker at a session (find her at @wparker on Twitter) and found out that she’s one of the many people who recently took a buy-out package from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She’s reinventing herself as a freelancer but has the same concerns as any new grad – that there won’t be enough jobs or money to go around. Follow her journey at InkDrainedKvetch site.

PR and expert pushers are alive and well. At the sparse exhibition hall I saw no fewer than four (and maybe there were many more) firms touting either the delivery of press materials to writers or the ability to provide experts on any topic to these same journalists. It’s actually a great service, but any reporter knows that you can’t rely on just one expert from one company and sometimes the agenda of a person providing a source might have to be called into question.

Random sights. I talked with NPR and CNN about freelancing for them. I talked with Sree Sreenivasan about blogs and his evaluation of my work. I raised my hand about a billion times in the 60 Sites in 60 Minutes session. And I realized one of the most important things I’ve got to do is find a proper breakfast place in the Peachtree area of Atlanta.

Follow me on Twitter @jeffcutler for ongoing updates during the conference. Sessions run all weekend. Find out more here.

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