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Inside the Upheaval of Journalism

Reporters Look Back on 50 Years of Covering the News


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 Two Technology: The Revolution of Our Time


Technology: The Revolution of Our Time


When we emerged from Columbia University Journalism School in the spring of 1969, I knew what lay ahead, having joined the Hartford Courant as a reporter in 1963. When shown to my desk at the Courant, I was stunned to find myself facing the city editor. It turned out to be a stroke of luck.

Sitting three feet from City Editor Charles Towne provided a master class in media management. When the presses rolled at 8:30 p.m. for the first edition, the vibration upstairs in the newsroom reinforced the sense of power and responsibility that came with journalism. Responsibility was reinforced that summer covering the Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C., with all-access credentials.

The previous occupant of my desk had left me a book: The Fading American Newspaper1 with its prediction that improved facsimile technology could deliver news directly to the home, killing printed newspapers. Did a reporter give up on a media career after reading it? I have never forgotten its message: technology is the basis for dramatic change in journalism. Even if that Connecticut newsroom did not comprehend print media change in November 1963, the emerging role of television news was obvious from the coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. Five decades later, the internet had rearranged media in ways beyond what most journalists had ever imagined.

We members of the Columbia J-School Class of 1969...

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