What is the future of journalism?
Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. He has written and produced prime-time network television programs and pilots for NBC and ABC, and co-authored Loose Lips, an off-Broadway theatrical revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. He is a regular columnist for New York Magazine, and contributes frequently to Vanity Fair. He is also a founder of Very Short List.
Andersen began his career in journalism at NBC's Today program and at Time, where he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice and for eight years the magazine's architecture and design critic. Returning to Time in 1993 as editor-at-large, he wrote a weekly column on culture. And from 1996 through 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist for The New Yorker. He was a co-founder of Inside.com, editorial director of Colors magazine, and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he also co-founded.
From 2004 through 2008 he wrote a column called "The Imperial City" for New York (one of which is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008). In 2008 Forbes. com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media. Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and is a member of the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Pratt Institute, and is currently Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives with his family in New York City.
Kurt Andersen: Journalism faces a lot of challenges. I’m not sure that what are seen each day as the great challenges, the death of the newspaper, for instance, or it’s being supplanted by online media, is the greatest challenge.
I think that there being a set of facts that we can all agree on is the great challenge of journalism, at least in the near median term – that journalism doesn’t entirely evolve to the left-wing version of facts, or the right-wing version of facts or the Islamic version of facts, and the western version of facts. There will always be the left, the right, the different cultures, different sensibilities who have their own little journalistic silos of their version of the truth. And while we can never get back – I’m not sure we went to get back – to the pre-Internet, pre-cable table version where there were three networks and New York Times, and they told us the truth from on high, I do think, and I do hope that we can maintain some shared sense of “here are the facts” and we here in some little place are engaged in a good faith search for the truth.
The “the truth,” as a thing, has gotten a kind of bad reputation from various sides by virtue of various critiques over the last 30 years. But I still think that that is what needs to power and drive journalists. And I hope that the institutions that allow that to happen in a robust way will figure out a way to maintain themselves, by whatever economic model.
Recorded: July 5, 2007.
Kurt Andersen discusses the future of journalism. He hopes that news organizations are able to find a way to maintain their traditions of integrity and independence while adapting to the new media environment.
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