Tom Patterson, of Harvard, Discusses Knowledge-Based Journalism and Retraining the Press

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Journalism has changed and needs to keep changing with the times

Tom Patterson is the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. He recently shared his beliefs for the future of knowledge-based journalism, including public interest and globalism in an interview. Here is an overview of his interview, with the most important parts for you.

Refocusing on Knowledge

Up to now, journalists have focused on interviews and observation, but this is no longer enough. Public policy problems and issues have led to information that could help improve the reporting. Patterson believes that research is more important, but how does he propose young and upcoming journalists prepare for that?

It all starts with journalism education. It needs to build knowledge, so that the students use research from the start. The research needs to become a habit. No journalist who has been to a journalism school would consider a story without an interview. The same should apply to the extra research.

Public Interest and Media Problems

He has acknowledge that the news has softened, but this is due to commercialism. The problem is those interested in public affairs are neglected. Another issue is the ”he said, she said” reporting, which comes from the old models. A journalist used to have to report from both sides, which is great when the interview quotes are straight and not when the interviewees have ulterior motives and personal advantage. This works for the journalist to be put into the center of controversial stories, and that works well for news right now.

SEE ALSO: The Evolution of Digital News, and a Glimpse of Where it’s Headed Next

Technology has made it easier to find information, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing.
Technology has made it easier to find information, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

Patterson also went on to talk about how the news outlets view the audience, which is a tricky subject. There are some readers who want hard news and others who want the softer reporting. Trying to satisfy both audiences is difficult, even with a blend of the two forms of reporting. It’s up to the media outlets to determine their specific audience and then deliver the news in a way that suits that audience. National Public Radio is one great example of this, which has continued to grow its audience because it has figured what the audience wants.

The Future for the Media with the Internet and Globalization

There are positive and negative dimensions to the Internet. One of the main issues is the degradation of information: it’s too easy to get that news there, but that can mean the quality is low. That is a challenge for all areas, including journalists. However, accessing good material is possible and has become much easier than ever before. It’s important to develop the tools, which is something that the Journalist Resource does.

The Internet has also introduced niche audiences, and information is shaped around those values. Fox News has done this deliberately, and it took it 10 years to create that audience but it shows that it is possible. Blogs are one example of this personalized formula. They will be tailored to one certain audience, and that is the way Patterson believes the information will be given in the future.

 

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