Professional media panel discuss embracing change at CMI

Written By Sabrina Bodon, Online Editor

To a room filled with journalism students, professors and fellow professionals, the #MediaPioneers Legacy Panel tackled media relevancy in an on-demand society, embracing change and offering solutions to move forward in a field many have labeled deceased.

“Hard news, good writing, getting both sides of the issue is still the most important thing you can learn,” Michelle Wright, WTAE anchor as well as Point Park adjunct professor said. “But it’s really nice to know all of these [innovative media] tools.”

The panel, consisting of Ben Howard of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Luis Fabregas of Trib Total Media, Terry O’Reilly of Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting and Ted Achladis of WPXI, joined Wright on the panel Tuesday morning at the first event at Point Park’s Center for Media Innovation during its grand opening.

Fabregas, editor of Trib Total Media, began his presentation with a slide asserting, “Good luck trying to stop journalism.” After years in the industry, he offered his take on how journalists can move forward digitally, including the importance of interacting with the audience.

“I think perhaps we need to change the way we deliver the news and the way that we present it and perhaps create it because we’re visual,” Fabregas said. “At the same time, there is more room for special storytelling, there’s room for watchdog journalism…as we transition.”

Wright also weighed in pointing to social media as a key to the future of garnering and keeping an audience. She told the crowd to utilize social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to livestream and hold public conversations.

Howard, managing editor for digital design at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, used the recent updated layout of the Post-Gazette’s website as an example of how advances in multimedia has affected the way print newspapers have structured their websites.

“It’s exciting to see this kind of investment in journalism,” Howard said of the CMI, “especially since more people are reading and viewing the news now more than ever. I’m not sure there’s ever been a bigger time for better storytellers.”

The updated Post-Gazette website features more access points to readers, showing more content which will allow subscribers to see what they want to see, keeping them on the website for longer amounts of time.

“We’re steep in tradition at the Post-Gazette, and we’re proud of our history, but because of that, some may think we are afraid of change,” Howard said. “We’re still committed, we’re still putting out product.”

Terry O’Reilly of Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting/WESA/WYEP offered his four decades in journalism as an example to the audience, specifically looking at the set of challenges public media faces.

“Where there used to be just a handful of channels, there are now literally hundreds,” O’Reilly said. “With changes in technology and the expansion and distribution, we have lots of new competitors. And they’re not just big competitors.”

O’Reilly didn’t stop there, he spoke to the audience about how public media will survive: with the partnerships of local nonprofits as well as with the help of an engaged audience.

“To keep going forward, to keep the success of the news side of what we do lies in public media partnerships,” O’Reilly said. “Nonprofit journalism is at an inflection point right now. It’s a place we can choose to define ourselves as being independent media entities or choose to define yourself as an integrated community media enterprise.”

Marina Elms, a freshman journalism major, said she looks forward to being a part of a Point Park community on the forefront of innovation. Elms pointed to ever-changing realm of the journalism industry and credibility of the panelists as a takeaway from the panel discussion.

“The panelists all had their own experiences and definitely have some years so they’ve seen how everything’s changed,” Elms said. “It made me think about what journalism will be like in ten years. What’s going to be next?”

Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation, hopes with more events exposing students to the changing atmosphere surrounding media, Point Park will be on the frontlines of the future of journalism.

“It’s easy when you’re teaching journalism to just stay in the classroom and remove yourself from the rest of the world, but what we’re doing here is very literally connecting students with the world,” Conte said. “One of our big goals is to connect students with people actually doing media business and leaders in the industry.”