“We Just Need to Adapt”: John Schwartz on the Future of Journalism

2014-03-25_John_Schwartz_Michelle.Toussaint38596“It’s become pretty common for folks like me to tell folks like you that journalism is doomed.”

So said New York Times correspondent John Schwartz on Monday afternoon, addressing an audience of both seasoned journalists and hopeful students at the Belo Center for New Media. The doom-and-gloom outlook that has surrounded the field for years now, he said, is giving way to a wide range of possibilities. “Nobody knows what the future of journalism will be.”

Schwartz, BA ’79, JD ’84, and a former editor-in-chief of the Daily Texan, delivered the Moody College’s annual William Randolph Hearst Fellows Award Lecture with a talk entitled “More Chaos, Less Fear: How Journalism Looks Now.” He shared insight from a long career, which includes a background in law and years of experience in what he calls a trade rather than a profession at the Washington Post and Newsweek before joining the Times.

Schwartz offered a more optimistic view of journalism’s future, noting that while the methods of storytelling are changing, journalism as a medium is not. Change brings new opportunities, in what he called a “mini-renaissance” taking place.

“The world is hungry for stories,” he said. “We don’t need to give things up, we just need to adapt.”

Schwartz cited the New York Times as a publication that has managed to survive and thrive in the digital era. He praised the Times’ most popular story last year, a multimedia feature called “How Y’all Youse and You Guys Talk,” which used interactive tools rather than a linear narrative to engage readers with the topic of what your dialect says about where you’re from.

Schwartz praised the potential of multimedia—even joking about his addiction to social media—and recalled how different his own journalism training on the Forty Acres was from that of today’s students, who learn not just to write a lede, but also to take photos, edit audio, code in HTML, and a slew of other skills. He encouraged a crowd of aspiring journalists to experiment and not fear making mistakes.

“It’s up to us to reinvent journalism,” he said.

Photo courtesy the Daily Texan / Michelle Toussaint.


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