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Journalist Steven V. Roberts Shares Insights on New Media

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Marymount’s 2012 Marya McLaughlin lecturer -- columnist, political analyst, and best-selling author Steven V. Roberts – shared his thoughts on the role of media in the 2012 campaign and the influence of new media and citizen journalism. He noted that President Obama understood new media and used it to advantage in 2008. Now use of social media is standard operating procedure in all campaigns.

Roberts pointed out that traditional news dissemination was vertical, with the public as passive recipients of information. It’s now a horizontal system. He explained, “You are getting information from each other – peer to peer, laptop to laptop, cell phone to cell phone. …It’s not filtered through mainstream media.” Roberts added that we can also ingest more than one stream of information at the same time: watch a debate and monitor tweets and texts.

He said, “We now have a vast network of choices for news. Less than 50% of Americans watch network news.” Roberts notes, “When I started as a reporter, we were mostly white guys.” In a reference to Marya McLaughlin, one of the first women in broadcast journalism, he said, “Gender diversity was just the start.” Now the news business is fully diversified. “That’s enormously healthy,” he asserted. “We can’t do our jobs if not diverse. You need to read different perspectives and opinions that challenge what you think and believe. We’re not using new media to advantage if we filter what we look at.”

Roberts made a number of points about the new media universe, including:

- “It has changed how people think of themselves. They now see themselves as part of the process. They have a stake of ownership in the outcome. …Journalists have to listen to their critics.”

- “Analysis of issues is complicated. It’s hard to do in 140 characters.”

- “The horizontal system of sharing information has created a shift in power. It’s diminishing the ability of tyranny to control the reporting of what is happening. We’ve seen the rise of citizen journalism, and that’s empowering.”

- “The downside is a conflict between speed and accuracy. The rush to be first has all too often in this new digital space replaced the obligation to be accurate. Publish first and edit later; that’s not exactly the way I was brought up. We lose the capacity for judgment; we lose the capacity for verification.”

Roberts also spoke of his and Marymount’s commitment to cutting-edge, ethical journalism, stressing, “You here at Marymount and those of us in the professional world have two profound tasks to do at the same time: We must be as current as possible – embrace this new universe and use it to its fullest – and at the same time not forget the basic truths – not forget the ethical foundations that will allow us to keep a steady course.” He emphasized, “Even in the midst of this enormous turbulent change...there are some things that don’t change. Integrity does not change. Honesty does not change. Devotion to professional standards do not change, no matter how much turbulence we’re living through. And I’m particularly pleased to be at a university which shares that commitment.”
PHOTO 1 - Steve Roberts

PHOTO 2 - Connell Wise, a Business major, chats with Steve Roberts

PHOTO 3 - Sofia Scarlett, a Communications major, interviews Mr. Roberts for the Banner.

PHOTO 4 - Steve Roberts discusses the influence of new media with twins Brittney (left) and Lauren Bukartek, both candidates for the M.S. in Information Technology.

PHOTO 5 - Matthew D. Shank, president of Marymount, presents Steve Roberts with a certificate of appreciation for being the University's 2012 Marya McLaughlin Lecturer.