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> Back to Media in the Making

Interviews with Former Whitworthian Staff
by Jerod Jarvis, '11

Jasmine Linabary, '09
Managing Editor
The Bigfork Eagle and
The West Shore News

Marcus Chan, '90
Business and
Technology Editor
The San Francisco Chronicle

Chris Collins, '05
Covers local government
The Fresno Bee

Mike Sando, '92
Covers NFL's NFC West
ESPN.com

Jerod Jarvis interviewed former Whitworthian staffers to learn where they think journalism is heading. Participating in the interviews are Jasmine Linabary, '09, managing editor of two weekly newspapers in Montana, The Bigfork Eagle and The West Shore News; Chris Collins, '05, who covers local government for The Fresno Bee and who spent six weeks reporting for McClatchy Newspapers in Baghdad in fall 2007; Mike Sando, '92, who covers the NFL's NFC West for ESPN.com and who previously covered the Seattle Seahawks for The Tacoma News Tribune; and Marcus Chan, '90, the current business and technology editor at The San Francisco Chronicle, where he was the newspaper's first multimedia editor.

Jarvis also interviewed Professor of Communication Studies and Whitworthian Advisor Jim McPherson to find out how Whitworth prepares its journalism students for the rapid changes taking place in media. Following the interviews, Whitworth Public Information Officer Emily Brandler Proffitt, '05, offers her perspective on current media trends and updates on how Whitworth stays abreast of the exciting changes in the media industry.


"New trends are shaking up the world of professional journalism… As a student journalist, I see it as imperative to develop a working knowledge of these trends."

Jarvis: What did you do at Whitworth that helped prepare you for your career?

Linabary: My roles with The Whitworthian prepared me best for my career, as they gave me hands-on experience in managing and putting together a newspaper on a regular basis. The independent studies I did on online journalism and reporting also aided my professional development, as did the Media Impact Jan Term class in New York City and Washington, D.C., led by Jim McPherson.

Collins: I was an editor for The Whitworthian, and besides the great learning experiences that came with student journalism, I also received several angry letters to the editor that helped me develop a healthy response to criticism.

Sando: Working for The Whitworthian was really important. I got a feel for writing and editing on deadline. I recall pulling many all-nighters trying to put together the sports section each week. I also learned that what one writes about someone has an impact upon that person. I've tried to be sensitive to that.

Chan: Nothing beats hands-on experience. Working at The Whitworthian and doing newspaper internships during the summer provided me with a solid foundation. Couple that with great instruction, and you're off to a strong start.

Jarvis: How have things in your field changed since you entered it (in terms of technology, content, readership, etc.)?

Linabary: During my short time in the field I've witnessed layoffs, positions left unfilled, and budget cuts that have directly affected my daily work. These have necessitated content-sharing relationships with other newspapers and finding other creative ways to get work done.

However, it's also a time of reinvention. I've been able to watch and take part in conversations about ways to change what we do in both advertising and production to increase profits, become more efficient and draw readers. The most recent push our company has is for Microsoft tags, which are bar codes that can be placed in the print editions and scanned by a smart phone to view a video or slideshow. It makes a paper interactive.

I've also seen an increased emphasis on having hyper-local content, especially at weekly newspapers, to maintain an edge in the market. Who else is going to cover middle-school sports or every local committee meeting?

Collins: There have been giant changes in my short career in journalism. Newspapers now think of themselves as offering two news products -- one in print, one online -- and they are grappling in countless ways with how to provide both in a profitable and effective way. Do they show only part of the story online and charge for the rest of it? Do they post only some stories online? Only some stories in print? It's a dynamic and shifting industry that is still trying to find its way. Readership (online and print combined) remains relatively healthy. The biggest financial burden is the loss in advertising due to the poor economy.

Chan: What has changed: The distribution channels for content (smart phones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs), the forms of storytelling (audio, video, interactives, mashups), the reader experience and the tools for reporting. What hasn't really changed: the need for solid reporting. No matter the medium, high-impact journalism is still built on solid reporting. In fact, you could argue that reporters have to be even better at their jobs today because technology has empowered readers to scrutinize journalism in ways they couldn't before. Readers today can comment directly on stories, easily compare online articles from other publications and perform their own web research.

"Newspapers now think of themselves as offering two news products -- one in print, one online -- and they are grappling in countless ways with how to provide both in a profitable and effective way."

Jarvis: What can you tell readers of Whitworth Today about how they will receive their information in the future?

Collins: I think that, ultimately, there will always be a demand for quality journalism as long as we have a free society. How that product will be delivered is a big question, both in terms of technology and business model. There are emerging models of nonprofit news media that seem to be taking off. The drawback is that they are beholden to donors, who may be more fickle and have a bit more of a monopoly than advertisers do with the current for-profit model.

Sando: The trend is toward more streamlined and personalized consumption. We're spending more time following a narrower set of interests. The key is increasingly making sense of what is happening, not simply relaying what is happening. What does it mean? What is the proper context? Ideally, the headlines on my blog should rarely mimic what a news headline might read. They should take the next step. I think that's where there's the most value.

Chan: The free-web approach hasn't saved the print industry. Online advertising hasn't grown fast enough. Many in the media are hoping that the tablet computer (such as the iPad) will entice readers to pay for digital content. We'll see. It's still early. Also interesting is the impact of social networking -- some people are first hearing about news from their friends on Facebook or Twitter. For some, social networks will increasingly influence the type of content (journalism or not) they consume.

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