Worldwide Media Relations
Presentation to Media Conference
Kiev University Institute of Journalism
Steven R. Van Hook
Thursday, May 29, 1997
"Developments in the American Media and their Relation to Ukraine"
Translated and Published in the Kiev University Institute of Journalism
Annual Faculty Journal
There are many exciting, interesting and frightening changes happening in journalism and news reporting in the United States, changes which will be felt around the world.
Right now in United States, there are more than 1,800 daily newspapers; 11,000 magazines; 11,000 radio stations; 2,000 TV stations; 2,500 book publishers. And they are all watching the future with wonder.
A noteworthy item: more than half of all those tens of thousands of TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines are owned by just 23 corporations. News media in the United States are becoming centrally owned and controlled by large corporate interests.
One of the most interesting developments in the United States media is the many news options now available by computer over the Internet. We can now find an interesting blend of the news styles and formats of television, radio, newspapers and magazines all mixed into one new medium, available over the computer and telephone lines.
Already Internet users can receive audio & video programs. Fiber optics, cable and direct satellite technology will make the connections even faster - we will soon be able receive full-length movies over the Internet. "Web surfers" can currently listen to CDs and view music videos on the "'Net."
Web TV in the United States now allows people to hook directly up to the Internet with just a small box connected to their television sets. No computer and no computer expertise is necessary to connect to the millions of Web sites available over the Internet.
There is something very appealing about the Internet - anyone can become a publisher with direct access to millions of potential "online" visitors everyday. I publish my own Internet site featuring news and articles about Eastern Europe. My web site receives several thousand "hits" each week, at a cost of only $20 per month. Some people may find this unlimited and uncontrolled information access quite frightening, while others see it as an exciting new age in information freedom.
All this technology is quite new, and analysts are still trying to predict where all this will lead. I can remember when newsrooms were first computerized (not all that long ago). The reporters missed the sound of a clacking typewriter, and so engineers made the computer keyboards click like a typewriter, and the reporters were happy again. Journalists and writers are a very strange kind of creature.
But now, over just the last few years, here are some of the hundreds of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters that now make news available on the Internet:
Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, Time Magazine, US News & World Report, Fox, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Turner Network, PBS, National Review, Columbia Journalism Review, San Jose Mercury, C-SPAN, Arts & Entertainment, Slate (MicroSoft), Santa Barbara News-Press, and hundreds more each year.
By the end of the century, more than half of all Americans will be on the Internet.
Only very few cities in the United States have competing daily newspapers. Typically you find only one daily newspaper in any American city. For many years, those newspapers have not had to take on any significant competition in their markets. Now online news services can compete with those daily newspapers over the Internet, providing news in a way more immediate, interesting, and interactive.
Some of the fastest developing computer news services that may move quickly into local news markets are Clarinet, Yahoo, Microsoft (MSNBC), and CNN-Oracle.
How, in the middle of this electronic development, and amidst all the thousands and thousands of competing TV & radio stations, newspapers, magazines, movies, video games, does a simple reporter manage to get a message across?
Here is what I frequently have told my reporters:
- Stick to the basics of journalism: always tell the truth, and tell it in an interesting way. If people can't believe everything you say, they can't believe anything you say.
- Answer the standard journalistic questions of who, what, where, when, why.
- Tell your story succinctly, accurately, and relevantly. With the millions of new choices for information, whether through print, radio, television or over the Internet, it becomes all the more important to convey information quickly and entertainingly.
- There are two things that are most important to news consumers: they want to know why the world should matter to them, and more importantly, they want to know they matter to the rest of the world. If you can accomplish that connection, you have the magic key to successful communication.
- Always tell your story in an interesting way. Even the most banal topics can be presented in a way that becomes personally relevant to a news consumer, with a little creativity and perspective. The best lecture I ever heard from a journalism professor was his shortest lecture. He said the secret to telling a story well is to tell it this way: Pretend like you just called your best friend and said, "Guess what?" Then tell your tale.
Finally, the most important lesson for a reporter I learned from Fyodor Doestoevsky, who wrote: "If the people will not listen to you, then fall down before them and beg forgiveness, for in truth you are to blame."