Award-winning journalist Bob Levey visited Taft this week, where he encouraged students to consider the future of journalism. Levey has covered news from our nation's capitol since the Johnson administration, and is perhaps best known for his 36-year tenure with the Washington Post, where he authored a column, "Bob Levey's Washington," for 23 years.
"The issues in journalism right now, the future of the media right now, the connection between the media and the political process right now...we have never been at a moment like this," Levey told the Taft community. "The speed with which change has overtaken the media, the speed with which certain norms have been discarded, the speed with which the media has gone from being among the most successful businesses in America to among the most threatened is truly mindboggling."
Levey reflected on a meeting at the Washington Post where two young men sought to educate Post brass on the next big thing in news, the Internet. It was 1992, and newspapers were still being published the same way they had been for 400 years, since the printing press was invented. The changes that would follow were inconceivable to the journalists in the room that day.
"There were 5,500 newspapers in the United States 40 years ago," said Levey. Today there are 1700. The number of people employed in daily journalism has fallen 40% in the past 15 years. The web itself has broadened journalism into precincts that were unimaginable. But is has also brought about trials for journalism that it never had before, mostly having to do with accuracy and mostly having to do with the idea that anyone with a cell phone and a camera and a keyboard can be a journalist. We're struggling in the media. We're struggling to shape a future of the media where accuracy is prized. And yet more and more speed is prized and candy is prized. This will be the tension of your lives going forward, this is the tension of your lives right now."
Levey noted that the number of people getting their news through social media outlets is staggering. More people followed election night coverage on Facebook last November than through any other media outlet. Facebook, Levey said, is the "dominant future of news in our world."
Concluded Levey, "All of you in this room have to understand that you have the potential to determine this outcome. You have the potential to decide which media survive and which do not."