news media

ATLANTA — Republican candidate Newt Gingrich is decrying media coverage of the sexual harassment claims against rival Herman Cain and says that Cain’s tax plans deserve more attention.

Gingrich has told WSB radio in Atlanta on Wednesday that he thinks it’s “disgusting” that the news media has started what Gingrich described as a “witch hunt” against Cain. It was revealed this week that Cain’s former employer, the National Restaurant Association, settled in the 1990s with two women who claimed that Cain had sexually harassed them.

A third woman has told The Associated Press that she considered filing a sexual harassment complaint but never did.

Gingrich says Cain is trying to help a country that’s in trouble and has gotten more coverage for what Gingrich termed gossip than for Cain’s tax policies.

Commercialization, lack of opportunity for new journalists and low-quality reporting all contribute to the overall decline of the news media, a visiting journalism professor said.

Robert W. McChesney, professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said at an on-campus lecture Monday that job offers for incoming journalists has declined for the most part.

“We have lost a significant percentage of our foreign correspondents and a significant percentage of our correspondents in Washington,” McChesney said. “New media hasn’t filled much of the void yet.”

The massive decrease of original reporting in Baltimore represents the overall decline in news content and media work, McChesney said. In Baltimore papers, 86 percent of news stories are reused press releases.

“Whatever way you slice it, we are entering the building age of propaganda,” McChesney said.

He does not blame the fall of print and news media on the Internet as many people do.

“What the Internet did instead of creating the problem is it accelerated it,” McChesney said. “The cause deals with corporate monopoly control of our news media.”

A lack of resources and competent people doing the job has become a big problem with modern media, he said.

“Journalism needs resources. It can’t be done exclusively by people in their pajamas,” McChesney said. “You need competing people pushing things along.”

UT journalism professor Robert Jensen, who introduced McChesney at the event, said the obvious problem of news media today is that the current business model has become commercialized, which has led to its downfall.

“What Robert is addressing on the one hand is the immediate problem in the collapse of the model,” Jensen said. “On the other hand is a deeper critique in the way journalism has been practiced.”

McChesney suggests government support as a way to attain resources — not for individual papers or journalists, but for the news media system, Jensen said.

“Robert McChesney’s interpretation of the First Amendment goes beyond simply protection from government censorship,” Jensen said. “It allows for government support for a free news media system, which is necessary for an informed public, which is in turn necessary for democracy.”

Journalism graduate student Jaime Loke said she found the idea of a government-supported free news media to be appealing, but doubted it would work in the United States because Americans are afraid of government involvement.

“I don’t have the magic solution. I wish I did,” Loke said. “But it’s my responsibility as a future journalism educator to be vigilant about promoting good journalism.”

Envision the television, with its perfectly groomed anchors and catchy theme songs. Imagine the newspaper, with its bold black headlines and the crisp feel of the pages between your fingers. Finally, picture the radio, hosted by the compelling voice of the anchor most urgently saying, “We have breaking news.”

For the generation that grew up with the faces of Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings, the picture above is probably a familiar one. Millennials — the generation consisting of teens and men and women in their twenties — however, have no Walter Cronkite. Instead, they have the Internet.

The debate over the future of news media isn’t a new argument. With decreasing newspaper subscriptions and the plummeting television news ratings all across the country, professionals have been scratching their heads and wracking their brains, wondering why the up-and-coming generation of Americans is simply not interested in the news.

“The media has focused on what it has always focused on: breaking news, world news and the economy. And [my] generation just isn’t interested in those topics,” said public relations senior Jerrica Deloney. “My mother’s generation sought the information. [Today], information comes to us, whether through Twitter, Facebook or other outlets.”

While the conversation may seem old, today’s “Millennials and News Summit: The Real Challenge to the Future of Journalism and Journalism Education” promises to bring a new perspective on the tired argument.

Along with prominent figures in the news media industry such as Tod Robberson, a Pulitzer-prize winning editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, journalism professor Paula Poindexter has inserted a groundbreaking new variable in the news media equation: the Millennials.

This is the first time such a discussion has included the Millennials, a generation consisting of people born between the early ’80s and ’90s; a category nearly every person in their teens and twenties falls into today.

Poindexter organized the event in conjunction with her class, “Journalism, Society and the Citizen Journalist.” She broke up the class into four groups and challenged them to address the problems of journalism in capturing the Millennial generation.

Poindexter told the students to vote for a Millennial representative from each group to speak at the summit.

Among those students is journalism senior Jena Cuellar, who noted that with a college student’s busy schedule, there simply isn’t much time to pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news anymore.

“A lot of the older generation gets this misconception that we don’t care or we don’t want to watch the news,” Cuellar said. “[But] that’s not true. We simply have other ways of receiving the news.”

The stereotype does not end there. Cuellar goes on to claim that the media does not cover Millennial issues or Millennial voices. She recalls reading an article in The New York Times that begrudged Millennials for moving back home with their parents after college instead of “roughing it out” in the real world.

“The [media] is belittling us and talking down [to] us,” Cuellar said. “They’re not ignoring us, but they’re not making us feel good either.”

Douglas Luippold, a Daily Texan columnist and government and journalism senior, agrees, likening the relationship to a crime scene investigation in which the eyewitness’ friend is interviewed instead of the eyewitness. The media doesn’t write for Millennials. They write for the parents.

“Take Fox News, for example,” Luippold said. “News is supposed to reflect reality, yet a person that watches Fox News is living a completely different reality as opposed to someone watching CNN.”

Luippold also notes that mainstream media continually focus on entertainment and conflict instead of what directly affects the Millennials.

In addition to the student panel, the summit will also host a panel of three middle school teachers to discuss the impact of the news on the younger Millennials, often called “Wave Two” Millennials.

At this point Cuellar and Luippold agree the main problem with the news media is the failure to report on topics that directly affect Millennials. The news media has also been extremely resistant in embracing technology as a journalistic medium.

Nevertheless, Poindexter, Cuellar and Luippold hold out hope for the future of news media, calling the summit a “call to arms.”

“Don’t give up on Millennials,” Luippold said. “Don’t treat Millennial issues as Millennial issues. I’m not a homeowner, so I don’t see why I should care about foreclosure rates, but if you explain to me that these foreclosure rates will impact me in this way in the future, then I’ll start to pay attention.”