Milton Wolf 2010 Seminar Report
Communication Technology and New Media
The 2010 Milton Wolf Seminar brought together practitioners and academics for three days of exciting debate in Vienna, Austria from March 17 to 19 at the Diplomatic Academy Vienna. Co-sponsored by the American Austrian Foundation, the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvaniaâ s Annenberg School for Communication, and the Diplomatic Academy Vienna, the seminar explored the theme, â New media, new newsmakers, new public diplomacy: The changing role of journalists, NGOs, and diplomats in a multi-modal media world.â
Discussion began with a recognition that: as new media and communication technologies diffuse worldwide, traditional media institutions face a range of challenges, from shortened news cycles to fragmented and shrinking audiences. Advertising revenues have declined as advertisers try to make sense of the new environment and to redirect their spending in efficient and effective ways, putting media under economic pressure. New technologies create demand for ever-more rapid news provision and non-professional, user-generated content competes directly with the products of traditional news media. In response to these pressures, many news operations have engaged in aggressive downsizing, reducing their staff complements and eliminating foreign bureaus in a bid to contain costs and refocus their operations. These institutions are attempting to adapt to new technologies while retaining their traditional role of supplying accurate and factual news, sorting the important from the irrelevant â the traditional foundations of their businesses.
Predictably, under these difficult conditions, the quality of news products suffers. Scott Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon detailed the growing problem of inaccuracy in mainstream newspapers. Maier argued that, under the twin pressures of shorter news cycles and smaller newsgathering operations, the quality of news coverage is under threat, an argument echoed by several speakers. Maierâ s and othersâ research suggests that the problem is broad, applying to both the American and European contexts.
What then, does this changing news landscape mean for journalists, NGOs, and public diplomacy practitioners?