Lecture entertains, stirs thoughts of listeners
Some in the 200-person audience on the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library
came seeking answers from the prophet of the high church of journalism. There
were students, faculty, regional communications professionals and the curious
from among the public.
Though some may have agreed — others not — with the comments on the state and
future of the newspaper industry given by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of
The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times Company, the lecture
seemed to entertain and stir the thoughts of listeners.
Sulzberger was the guest speaker for the 2008 Harry M. and Edel Y. Ayers
Lecture Series at Jacksonville State University.
Sulzberger, 56, is part of an Ochs-Sulzberger family legacy that has reigned
over the Times since 1896. He addressed a variety of topics relating to
newspapers' journey into "a new era in communication," as they "embrace their
Despite the industry's strong push toward an online future, he cautioned that
"new mediums have always been a journalistic obsession," and print newspapers
have endured the introduction of a laundry list of technologies.
Sulzberger was unflinching in his optimism and support for digital
technologies that could further the journalistic effort but said the chief
concern is "how we grow in a world where the operating premise is always in such
He said he has adhered to lessons that will help guide his newspaper and the
company through the turmoil. He emphasized the importance of staying faithful to
principles, even in the face of change while still embracing uncertainty and
ensuring that fundamentals stay fundamentals. Sulzberger lauded the importance
of learning all about the Millennial generation and their affinity for
interactivity and personalization. Overall, he stressed the value in bringing in
outside help and being willing to experiment, knowing that there will be failure
Rochelle Dalton, a junior studying broadcasting at Jacksonville State
University, said that some of what Sulzberger spoke of resonated with her. As a
member of the Millennial generation, she said that she agrees with Sulzberger on
at least one point: that her generation will be strong enough to carry the
industry forward through a difficult time of transition.
"I think there's enough of the optimistic among them to carry the apathetic
through," said Dalton.
Ryan Dodd, a mathematics major at JSU with experience in radio broadcasting,
agreed with Sulzberger's remarks about not deviating from the principles of
journalism regardless of medium.
"No matter what technology comes along, biases can't be shown and a standard
has to be met," he said.
Sulzberger also took time to field a few questions from the audience.
He addressed the recent resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and
his excitement about having an African American and a "good man" in line to be
Sulzberger also defended a recent story about Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) that
caused widespread criticism for The Times.
"In retrospect, we could have explained more about the purpose of the story
publicly," said Sulzberger. Though he said they had editors answer readers'
questions about it online.
In a response to a question of why so many other newspapers use the New York
Times editorials on their opinion pages, "Because we're that damn good," he
About Nick Cenegy
Nick Cenegy is crime and courts beat writer for The Star.
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