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News Future

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From left to right, Wall Street Journal Page One Editor Alex Martin, Washington Post and Post TV web producer Natalie Jennings, WWL-TV President and GM Tod Smith, LSU Manship School of Mass Communication Dean Jerry Ceppos. (Credit: Olivia McClure) From left to right, Wall Street Journal Page One Editor Alex Martin, Washington Post and Post TV web producer Natalie Jennings, WWL-TV President and GM Tod Smith, LSU Manship School of Mass Communication Dean Jerry Ceppos. (Credit: Olivia McClure)

By Olivia McClure | LSU Student

Though technology fundamentally has changed the way information is distributed, quality content it is still most important, according to members of a panel of experts who pondered the future of news as part of the centennial of journalism at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication.

Tod Smith, president and general manager of WWL-TV in New Orleans, told an audience of students, faculty and interested members of the community Thursday that advertising traditionally supported television business models, but that is no longer the case because more people now get their news using computers and mobile devices.

Because media can no longer dictate to consumers how they take in information, it is important to focus more on content than distribution, he said.

"People catch on to new technology and you have to reach your audience wherever they go."

Consumers will tell you where they want to get information, Smith said, noting the question is how to make the same content that was profitable on TV news profitable on new platforms. He said enterprise reporting is in demand and it is important for news outlets to invest in quality journalists because high-quality local content is not widely found.

Alex Martin, page one editor of the Wall Street Journal, said journalists themselves can become a brand because a new marketplace exists online where their content can compete without being attached to a newspaper's brand.

Martin said that's scary because the cost of talent is driven up when nontraditional outlets like BuzzFeed begin posting enterprise stories and hire journalists that newspapers also want. BuzzFeed is a popular national website and is making money, he noted, so it has the resources to try out traditional journalism.

Washington Post and Post TV web producer Natalie Jennings said newsrooms were reluctant to adopt new technologies in the past, but they now look to adopt new approaches. Finding a way to make money on those platforms ought to come second, she said, because staying on the cutting edge is important.

Jennings said it sometimes is difficult to convince traditional newsrooms, such as at the Washington Post, that online features matter, but interactive graphics and videos tell stories in a different way and help attract a new audience.

"There's lots of ways to tell a story and different ways to bring readers to it," Jennings said.

Traditional newsrooms can prevent losing talent to nontraditional outlets by embracing new technologies and convincing reporters that being associated with the newspaper is still worth something, Jennings said.

The panel was moderated by Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School and former vice president for news of the Knight-Ridder newspapers and editor of the San Jose Mercury-News. The two-day centennial celebration ended Friday.

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