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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 Nine Business: How Big Media Missed Small and Personal

Extract

Business: How Big Media Missed Small and Personal

DAVID E. GUMPERT

I was full of excitement when I started my professional journalism career in the summer of 1969 as a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal in New York. Who wouldn’t be? I was going to work for a national newspaper on an upward growth trajectory whose paid circulation had just recently passed one million.1 There was just one little blip—it came each morning in the form of a daily moment of high anxiety when I did what so many other people did nearly without thinking: open the business section of the New York Times.

If the New York Times had a story related to my beat or area of coverage and it contained information I hadn’t yet reported about a particular large corporation or business trend, well, I was in trouble—enough trouble that I could lose my job. The New York Times was seen as our most important competitor and the editors of the two publications monitored each other like hawks. Maybe because each was a daily publication, they took each other more seriously than, say, the other major business publications of the era like Fortune and BusinessWeek.

Day in and day out over the next 50 years, the two dailies would obsess over each other and penalize or even dismiss reporters over missed scoops. Unfortunately, while they were keeping close tabs on each other, they were late...

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