FROM LEFT: Host Frank Bond with Brian Kelly and Charles Davis

Inside Media: The Digital Newsroom

April 25, 2009

Guests: Brian Kelly and Charles Davis

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

For 75 years, U.S. News and World Report vied for the attention of readers on newsstands around the globe. But in November 2008, the venerable newsmagazine changed with the proverbial digital times. Today, like the "Huffington Post" and others, its content is found solely on the Web.

According to editor Brian Kelly, the magazine had to take steps to remain viable, especially in an increasingly competitive environment dominated by the Web and other digital tools.

"We know what our brand is and what our content is, but how we deliver it is still shifting," said Kelly. He added that U.S. News and World Report, like most publications, does not have a reader problem but a business problem. Management is hedging its bets regarding how to package content, please readers and stay afloat economically.

"It’s a big complicated business now," Kelly said. "Where it’s going to sort out is what we’re trying to figure out."

Meanwhile, the magazine’s change to Internet-only continues to upset some loyal readers.

"I get all these anguished e-mails from readers saying, ‘I love your magazine. I want to hold print in my hands.’ [But] digital allows us to be really fast, so we can provide fresh, timely, organized information," said Kelly.

In addition to the Web site, readers can sign up for a digital weekly, which is e-mailed every Friday morning to subscribers’ inboxes.

The veteran journalist said old-school reporters must adapt to the sweeping technological changes as well. They must be more versatile and flexible, he said, traits common to budding young journalists waiting in the wings.

Charles Davis, an associate professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, said students are surprisingly eager to join the profession, despite reports of gloom and doom.

"I wonder if they’re reading the same things we’re reading, and often the answer is "no."

They want to do journalism on whatever platform will pay them to do it," said Davis.

Davis, the 2009 Scripps-Howard Foundation’s Journalism Teacher of the Year, noted that Missouri still emphasizes the fundamentals of newsgathering, while allowing students to play with a variety of platforms, including several Web properties.

"My job is to make them good reporters and then get out of their way," said Davis, adding that the best way to learn about technology is to watch them. "It’s a great trade."

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