By: Vickie Chachere, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A panel of top journalists said Saturday that the media reconnected with readers and viewers after the Sept. 11 attacks, but could lose ground if news companies cut resources to earn profits.
“I have a sense that there is a serious mood in the country that has heightened an appreciation for a journalism that is both deep and wide,” said New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines.
Panelists gathered at The Poynter Institute to mark the journalism education center’s 25th anniversary and the dedication of a new wing.
NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw said before the attacks the public did not take the issues of the day very seriously, paying more attention to the legal troubles of rap star Puff Daddy and his actress-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez than subjects such as terrorism.
That changed when the public learned the value of news as the attacks unfolded. The daily need for “reliable, contextual” information continues, Brokaw told the gathering of about 120 editors and journalists.
The panelists worried that financial pressures could hurt journalism at a crucial time.
James Carey of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism suggested banning companies whose primary business isn’t gathering news from owning news organizations as a means of keeping journalism’s mission of informing the public pure.
Panelists also noted that some viewers and readers were critical of objective reporting they didn’t consider patriotic enough.
Brokaw said NBC resisted having its on-air reporters and anchors wear American flag pins as some staffers have at local news stations, and received hate mail because of its stance.
“We know there is an emotional tidal wave in the country,” Brokaw said. “Our job is to not get on top of that wave and ride it to wherever it takes us.”
Sandy Rowe, editor of The Oregonian, said letters to the editor are running about half against the war in Afghanistan. “There is no more important time for people to hear the voices of dissent,” Rowe said.
The discussion was part of several days of events. The journalism teaching institute was founded by the late Nelson Poynter to keep the St. Petersburg Times under local and private control after his death in 1978.