Former Time Inc. Editor Discusses Media Trends

Former Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine -- now a senior advisor to the Carlyle Group -- discussed media industry trends at a luncheon Thursday hosted by the Potomac Officers Club at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner. Staff writer Thomas Heath was there and provided this excerpt:

"... On the one hand it is going to be more and more difficult for traditional mainstream media to provide the kinds of editorial budgets that have allowed very significant, very important reporting for our society. When you think about how much money CNN spends trying to cover the war in Iraq....this is obviously public service journalism and very important for our society to have, and if you're the guy running CNN coming into your fall budget meeting at Time Warner and you show the numbers for what you're spending, it is held up to a very harsh light. And I think that is going to be a problem for a very large number of publications at the very time when one thing you need to maintain your credibility, to maintain your audience, to distinguish your brand, is really excellent journalism. It is going to be tougher and tougher to afford it for traditional media.

The flip of that is that there really is something very exciting going on with the Internet. And there's a lot of different things. You hear a lot about social networking. And that sounds like, I don't know, Facebook or Myspace. We are actually seeing now some terrific conversations and communications from troops in the field in Iraq who are sending e-mails home in a very different kind of reporting...and reports from the field that never would have been imaginable at any prior time.

The power of the search engine is just beginning to be understood in a way that makes sense and that actually defines what news is. Purely anecdotal. I was moving apartments and I wanted to get rid of some books that I no longer had some space for and so I just typed into Google, "Give away books in New York City." And within five seconds, I came back with a list of six places, two of which would pick up where one could give away books. Now that doesn't sound like it's competitive with The New York Times, but in fact, the real growth over the last 20 years has been in service journalism...

The power of search really provides timely information that you can use. The next move forward in search is not only where I can type in something and Google will give me the name of six sites, but where Google will know enough about me where it will be sending me messages about what I should be thinking about. That's not as far fetched as it looks and I think it's on the one hand frightening for traditional media and on the other hand it's very exciting, and so you might see a little bit of what was going on in the 19th century in this country with the penny press when it was not unusual at all for a city to have 20 or 30 different newspapers competing for customers..."

By Mike Shepard  |  July 28, 2007; 3:00 PM ET  | Category:  Carlyle , Private Equity
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The demise of high-budget journalism may be no big deal at all. In the days when media budgets were very large, the people controlling the content were all of one mind on what was and was not important to viewers. Now budgets are smaller, and it is the government that is determining what is and is not important for the large organizations to report about.

While the influence of larger media organizations have eroded relative to the government, big media never strayed far even when it could.

One thing is clear -- 9/11-style events can have a huge impact on changing what people talk about.

Somehow, likewise, 9/11 has made New York the capital of the world in a way it never experienced in the past. They wired everyone up and knocked down some office buildings on live television. Like a medicine show with musicians, they gathered the crowd and now they're peddling the goods.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 28, 2007 3:54 PM

Ha. A Carlyle Groupie talking about the media as if he and his corporate buddies didn't own them outright. The 'alternative' media on the Internet is now the ONLY source of real news. Most Americans are becoming aware of that and in the end, if it's not too late already, the truth will out.

Click on 'current news' here and see how much of this has been reported on CNN.

Posted by: Reg | July 28, 2007 9:44 PM

The problems of MSM go beyond the budgets they need to cover the world. Newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post do the original reporting that the blogosphere uses as raw material for commentary and making connections the newspapers and network TV are too slow or too scared to make. Only a handful of papers have editorially called for an end to the Iraq disaster, surely not the best way to "maintain their credibility":

Posted by: Robert Stein | July 29, 2007 1:04 AM

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