New Media Professor Carlson Now Heads SPJ


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Traveling too much during October and November, I am remiss in not yet congratulating, or even noting, the election on October 18th of David Carlson (pictured), the Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of new media journalism at the University of Florida, to president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The 98-year old SPJ electing a veteran practicioner of the new medium as president is a milestone in American journalism.

In 1990, Carlson launched The Electronic Trib at the Albuquerque Tribune. The E-Trib was one of two first newspaper-operated online news systems in the world and is believed to be the world’s first interactive newspaper in the world operated from, and housed in, a personal computer (running an Intel 286-12 processor!).

Carlson today works with University of Florida journalism students on prototypes of newspapers of the future. He and his students launched the first journalism site anywhere on the World Wide Web in October, 1993. Many readers of this blog might also know him as a long-time contributor to the Poynter Institute’s E-Media Tidbits group weblog. The 6’3″ (190 cm) tall Carlson drives a 2004 MINI Cooper S with a Florida license plate META TAG.

Carlson’s election by SPJ is another signal of how important the new medium is to the future of journalism.

Moreover, Carlson’s 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor of printed and online newspapers and as professor of new media have given him a broad perspective about how U.S. journalism must change in the future. Here are some excerpts from his inaugural speech:

    “We need to talk about how Wall Street and its never-ending quest for profit is changing journalism. We need to talk about plagiarism and ethical lapses that have given us a black eye. We need to talk about the erosion of freedoms that are making it harder for the public to learn about the public’s business. We need to talk about our fellow reporters going to jail to protect their sources.

    Journalism, to me, is about helping people. It’s about telling stories that get laws changed. It’s about telling stories that save lives. It’s about telling stories that point fingers at what needs to be pointed out. It’s about sending criminals to jail and setting the innocent free. Journalism is about seeking truth and reporting it.

    But our industry has strayed somewhat from these principles. Too often and in too many places journalism has become about profits and ratings. Too often and in too many places it has become about political agendas and axe grinding, about entertainment disguised as news, about ‘spin’ and saber-rattling. Too often and in too many places journalism has involved another ‘ism,’ plagiarism.

    In short, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve allowed our ethics to decay. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to hype a story to make it sound better than it is. We’ve come to think that it’s all right for the TV networks to treat promos for their prime-time entertainment shows as news. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to tell local listeners that ‘Bubonic plague breaks out! Details at 11,’ when the story is about a cat that died 500 miles away.”

Congratulations on your new post, Dave! The journalism industry does need to talk, and it needs you to talk with it.

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