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Inside the Upheaval of Journalism

Reporters Look Back on 50 Years of Covering the News

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Edited By Ted Gest and Dotty Brown

In the spring of 1969, 101 students received master’s degrees from Columbia University’s prestigious School of Journalism, where they had learned the trade as it was then practiced. Most hoped to start a career in newspapers, radio, television or magazines, the established forms of journalism of that era. Little did they realize how the news world they were entering would be upended by the internet and by the social forces that would sweep through the country over the next 50 years.

This book tells the story of the news media revolution through the eyes of those in the Class of 1969 who lived it and helped make it happen. It is an insider’s look at the reshaping of the Fourth Estate and the information Americans now get and don’t get—crucial aspects of the vibrancy of democracy.

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Chapter One Fifty Years of Journalism: A Sweep of Change

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Fifty Years of Journalism:A Sweep of Change

Graduating from the Columbia University School of Journalism in the spring of 1969, Martin Gottlieb and Susan Spencer entered into a news world that would change dramatically over the course of their careers. Neither they, nor anyone else for that matter, could envision how profound those changes would be.

Back in 1969, many newspapers—the career path which Gottlieb took and reflects back on—were still on the upswing, cash cows that would flourish for another two decades before starting a relentless decline in both circulation and revenue. The changes would kill jobs and newspapers alike, leave many communities bereft of local reporting, and multiply the responsibilities of print journalists, requiring them to take photographs and videos and file repeatedly throughout the day to social media and websites while still reporting and writing stories for the next day’s paper.

Television news, too, would be transformed. Spencer, a long-time CBS-TV correspondent would herself experience those changes. Video instantaneously transmitted by anyone with a smart phone from almost anywhere in the world would ultimately replace unwieldy tapes that once took days to ship and edit before being viewed by the public. Broadcast news organizations staffed by vetted journalists would lose ground to a wild west of social media where such hallowed tenets of journalism as fairness, objectivity, and accuracy were often ignored if not spurned. The notion of America trusting a single news source, as was true in...

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