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Panelists consider ideas for newsroom of the future

Is journalism dying or is it just evolving?

The Next Newsroom Conference attempts to answer this question and discuss what the ideal newsroom will look like in the future. The two-day conference began Thursday with a panel discussion involving various media experts in the Griffith Film Theater.

The experts agreed that journalism skills would continue to be valuable even as print newspapers are phased out in favor of Internet content.

"The ability to synthesize various information from various sources and create a cohesive narrative is a skill that is in short supply in the human race," said panel member Rusty Coats, director of strategic initiatives for Media General Inc.'s Interactive Media Division.

Moderator Keith Hanadel, broadcast design director at the design firm HLW International LLP, asked whether a physical newsroom was even necessary when the Internet allowed journalists to collaborate from almost anywhere.

"You could answer that potentially no," said Robertson Barrett, Trinity '88, vice president, interactive and general manager of "There are 20,000 blogs in Los Angeles-why do you need a newspaper?"

Barrett added that the Los Angeles Times can provide the journalistic structure and expert knowledge to support a variety of user-generated content.

"There are a lot of services the LA Times can provide, and one is pulling people around the community model," he said. "You need this collaborative environment where the creativity will come out."

Next Newsroom Project Manager Chris O'Brien, Trinity '91, said the cultural changes in journalism would be a difficult adjustment for those involved in the profession, even at Duke.

He added that The Chronicle provides an opportunity for innovation in journalism and a chance to spark a conversation about what the next newsroom should look like.

"What happens if The Chronicle doesn't adapt to these changes?" he asked.

O'Brien said he envisioned a collaborative communications building on the new Central Campus that could host The Chronicle and other student media and technology organizations like the Information Science and Information Studies.

Projected on a screen behind the panelists was the Next Newsroom Web site that included a "twitter" feed, a live Internet blog that allowed online users to post "tweets"-comments and observations about the conference. The panel discussion was also broadcast live via online video.

The changing face of journalism and new media was visible in the constantly updating "tweets" displayed behind the panel.

One online user responded to Hanadel's question, "Are we witnessing the death of a discipline?"

"Death of a discipline? Maybe it should be viewed as the evolution of a discipline," the user wrote.


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