Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Springfield Republican story advances MGP2006 event


Event eyes future of journalism

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Republican [Springfield, Mass.]

AMHERST - The future of journalism will be the featured topic of a five-day summit that will bring White House press corps columnist Helen Thomas and other news afficionados to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst campus from June 28 through July 1. "Democracy and Independence: Sharing News and Information in a Connected World" is being organized by the Media Giraffe Project, a nonprofit research effort housed in the journalism program on campus.

More than 27 sessions and 50 panelists will be featured during the summit to chart the future of journalism and democracy amid the dramatic, technology-driven changes taking place today. "Everybody in the media has been thinking about the sustainability of journalism," said William P. Densmore Jr., editor and director of Media Giraffe Project. "The idea is not to come up with the answer, but some fresh ideas."

More than 150 bloggers, political strategists, educators, media executives, journalists, technologists and others are registered to attend the summit. Key participants include Thomas, New Orleans Times-Picayune Web editor Jon Donley and Newspaper Next project director Steven Gray. In addition to UMass, the summit's sponsors include the Ford Foundation, the New England Press Association, The Republican and MassLive, the Boston Globe Foundation, Omidyar Network and Corante Media Hub.

"I think we're succeeding in bringing together a group that doesn't often join together in conversation," said Norman H. Sims, a UMass journalism professor and head of the Media Giraffe Project. "These are serious times."

The recent sale of Knight Ridder newspaper company, the layoff of thousands of newspaper reporters, the addition of dozens of Internet news sources and dwindling advertising revenues for traditional news sources all are examples of the changing field of journalism. The question is, can democracy survive without watchdog journalism, Densmore and Sims said. "There's been a very long-term trend of mass media fragmentation," Densmore said.

Sims said his concern is no one knows what to do about the problem. "Journalism has always been seen as the way people could find out what was happening in the world and government," Sims said. "Can it continue to play that role when our media systems break down? That's the root cause of concern."

Registration is ongoing. For complete summit details, including schedules, cost and discussion topics, go to www.mediagiraffe.org

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