will be run over on the information superhighway,
but sees a need to reach more young readers sp.
BEN BRADLEE, A leading figure in elevating journalism to new heights of public attention with Watergate, does not believe newspapers will be run over on the information superhighway.
Nor does he fear that newspapers will succumb to the lure of tabloid journalism, or that investigative reporting is on the wane.
But, he is concerned that publishers and editors are not doing enough to make newspapers more attractive to younger readers.
In an interview with E&P, the retired executive editor of the Washington Post dismissed the possibility that online interactive communication and the proliferation of cable television spell doom for newspapers.
"I think we should look at it, but my God, there are 500 TV stations out there," he exclaimed. "Wherever the information highway is going, it seems to me that people will need newspapers to make sense out of it all. You can't surf 500 channels. I am more optimistic about newspapers than ever. They may be fewer in number, but the good ones will survive with bells on."
The danger of tabloidization of the mainstream press also has been overstated, contended the 74-year-old Bradlee, who is credited with turning a lackluster Post into a world-class paper, winning 18 Pulitzer Prizes during his 23-year editorship.
"The lowest common denominator of the press now has a certain clout because they will run things the better newspapers will usually hold," he said. But Bradlee conceded that newspapers sometimes cannot avoid publishing stories emblazoned by "trash TV" and the supermarket tabloids.
"It's all very well to say you're not going to carry something about Gennifer Flowers, but if she is on TV at the same time, it's sort of ridiculous to not run it," Bradlee commented. "Some newspapers have been rattled by this, but I think it's settling down now."
He added that he does not see tabloidization sweeping over the press.
Bradlee, who directed the Watergate probe by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, is also sanguine about the current state of investigative reporting.
"The papers I read seem very healthy in that department," he said. "But I've always believed that you are starting investigative reporting when you ask the fourth or fifth question. A reporter doesn't have to have a neon sign saying, 'I'm an investigative reporter.' "
What does worry Bradlee is the drop off in younger readers. He lauded newspapers for their Newspaper in Education programs that reach this segment but suggested that more should be done.
"We're not feeding those readers into the stream early enough," he remarked. "In my generation, we learned math by reading the batting averages. Newspapers should be doing everything they can to make them essential to every household."
Bradlee took a cautious view of the trend toward public journalism by newspapers while acknowledging that it holds a potential for getting closer to readers.
He asserted that it's time to "reexamine the stricture that editors and reporters stay off the stage and remain in the audience."
Pointing out that journalists like himself and others, including Woodward and Bernstein, virtually have become public figures, even "folk heroes," he opined that newspaper involvement in some community matters is not a bad idea.
"I don't think editors and reporters should become voluble on political issues because it destroys their credibility," he stated, "but I see nothing wrong with their becoming involved with a hospital, halfway house or some of the pro bono things we have steered clear of. Maybe it's time to look at public journalism."
Bradlee was interviewed following a speech he gave before the Los Angeles
?"Wherever the information highway is going, it seems to me that people will need newspapers to make sense out of it all. You can't surf 500 channels. I am more optimistic about newspapers than ever. They may be fewer in number, but the good ones will survive with bells on.") [Caption]
?(? Ben Bradlee) [Photo]
By: M.L. Stein Retired Washington Post editor does not believe they