Riptide Event: Disruption in the Journalism Industry

Written by Janco Damas

By Janco Damas
BU News Service

Boston University journalism students and faculty gathered last Monday to hear experienced journalists and media executives talk about the history of disruption in the news business. The panelists, authors of Digital Riptide, an oral history of the collision of journalism and technology, collaborated through the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center to interview more than 80 coders, journalists, and disruptors for the report, which they discussed in detail Monday night.

“Riptide,” an ocean current that drags victims out to sea, is a metaphor for what happened to the news industry when accosted by a wave of digital innovations starting in the 1980s.

The evening featured two panels, one composed of four veterans of digital media, Martin Nisenholtz, Paul Sagan, John Huey and John Geddes, and the second made up of technology reporters who have worked in the field for decades. Below are audio clips from the gathering at Boston University featuring talking points from panelists and questions from attendees.


Journalism’s history of missed opportunities


Martin Nisenholtz on why traditional news media fundamentally cannot innovate. Nisenholtz would know–he’s the former digital head at The New York Times and now professor of digital communication at Boston University.

Paul Sagan on how the news industry missed the iPad opportunity. Sagan speaks from his experience as executive in residence at General Catalyst Partners and as a director of Akamai Technologies.


Forthcoming opportunities for journalism


Philip Elmer-DeWitt,  a senior editor at Fortune, on niche journalism.

Paul Sagan on the need for video in the news industry.


Continuing to change in journalism


Hiawatha Bray, a technology writer for the Boston Globe, on the devastation of ad-blockers.

Paul Sagan on journalism school.

Hiawatha Bray on the changing audience.


Questions from the audience


Max Filipsson, a journalism graduate student at Boston University, asks Paul Sagan about the role of crowdfunding in the news industry.

Michelle Johnson, a journalism professor at Boston University, and Martin Nisenholtz on the Washington Post’s proposed idea to create a content-management system.

Chris Daly, professor of journalism at Boston University, and Martin Nisenholtz on the New York Times reaching 1 million users.

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