Talk, scratch head, talk some more (The future of news)

September 24, 2009

I got this invitation in my e-mail this week:

Because press space at the invitation-only event is extremely limited, kindly contact me as soon as possible to secure a seat.
Following is background on the event:

WHAT: A unique invitation-only gathering of more than 100 senior leaders from media and technology, the UCBerkeley Media Technology Summit is being organized by the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. The summit, which will run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Googleplex, is intended to provide the leaders of traditional media companies with new insights into the technologies, consumer behavior and advertising systems that will affect their businesses at a time of momentous change (Sounds like the latest opportunity to smack around traditional media companies for being traditional, no? — ed). The Koret Foundation, Google and the McCormick Foundation are generously sponsoring the event.

I got my invitation from Alan Mutter, who blogs about the future of the news business at Reflections of a Newsosaur and someone whom I frequently ask for expert comments for my news stories. Because it’s from Alan, I know it will be interesting, and I wish I could attend (I’ll be in Toronto on covert military maneuvers for the Parti Quebecois for the Thomson Reuters investor day at the time).

One thing strikes me, however, and it’s been on my mind all summer: We need to come up with some answers about how to keep the news business alive in the 21st century. So far, the cycle tends to be: talk, scratch head, talk some more, scratch head, ask questions, blame newspapers for everything, blame the media, talk, scratch head, lay off some staff… and it goes on and on. Is this event really going to change anything?

If nothing else, it has an impressive list of companies that are attending (UPDATE: Mutter’s e-mail says that folks are coming from companies “such as” the ones listed below which means that maybe none of them will come! Thanks to Dan Hayes at Lee Enterprises for pointing this out. ). UPDATE 2: Alan Mutter tells me that people from the companies listed in the initial e-mail are registered to come. I’m sorry for saying in what I thought was a lighthearted manner that folks might not come. Alan is an honest operator and one of the smartest guys in the room when it comes to the future of news, and whatever happens at the conference, it’s going to be interesting.

It also will feature former News Corp No. 2 Peter Chernin, a media vice president from Microsoft and even a Thomson Reuters VP for Semantic Technologies. Here’s the whole list so you can see exactly how many hands will be scratching their heads (they represent traditional media, tech companies, startups, universities and more):

Advance Publications, BusinessWeek, Cable News Network, CBS, Comcast, Community Newspaper Holdings, Emmis Broadcasting, E.W. Scripps, Fox Television Networks, Hearst Corp, Lee Enterprises, McClatchy Co, MediaNews Group, MSNBC, National Public Radio, News Corp, New York Times Co, Schibsted, Thomson Reuters, Times Publishing Co, Tribune Co, U.S. News and World Report, Village Voice Media, Wired Magazine and Yahoo. Also: the Center for Investigative Reporting, Chi-Town Daily News, Everyblock.Com, Google News, Internet Archive, MinnPost, New America Media, PaidContent.Org, Pegasus News, Salon Media Group, San Diego News Network, Texas Tribune, True/Slant and West Seattle Blog, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Truviso, YuMe, Starcom MediaVest, Austin Ventures, Piper Jaffray, Berkeley, Harvard, MIT.


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keep the news business alive?
how about just reporting the news factionally without endless rants and editorials.

That works for me.

Recently a poll was taken that Americans reverred senators as the least trustworthy but most deplrable proffession.

The news media is the close second.

After all, it is the oldest profession on the planet!

Posted by marky | Report as abusive

The future of news as an industry is pretty obvious. There’s no panacea that will apply to the whole industry. Not micropayments. Not subscriptions. It’s going to contract in a reasonably dramatic fashion.

Now the real question is whether your organization wants to be a winner or a loser in that process. That’s what the attendees in these conferences need to be thinking about.

Posted by Implosion | Report as abusive

My colleague at PBS’ Idea Lab, Chris O’Brien attended the summit and wrote a piece about the rise of non-profit news organizations and asks whether they’ll ever be sustainable as a model for sustaining journalism:

Posted by Simon Owens | Report as abusive