Journalism in the Service of Democracy

Opening Night

It was standing room only for the journalism students and professors who crowded into the lobby and Spielberg Gallery of The Paley Center for Media for the summit’s opening night reception. Vartan Gregorian quipped, “At first I thought it was a sit-in.” Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center, said the summit’s purpose was to “assess the future of journalism and how, as a community, we best prepare the next generation of journalists as well as media leaders.” The former PBS president added, “We’ve reached across the media landscape to bring together the most diverse and broadest representation of that landscape as we possibly could. So, represented here tonight and tomorrow, we will include the New York Times, YouTube, CNN, Bloomberg, MTV News, the Associated Press, ABC News, Current TV, Fox News, and the Huffington Post.”

Gregorian offered a short account of why and how Carnegie Corporation took on this challenge, and expressed his personal conviction about the vital role that journalists play in a democracy. He said that teachers (“the most noble profession”), librarians (who “protect the memory of our past”), and journalists are “practitioners of three of the most important professions that serve our nation.” He added, “In our democracy, journalists are agents of change. Nowadays, everybody is talking about change. Certainly, our society, like all others, needs to change and adapt in order to survive. However, we also need to change in order to stay well. But one thing we cannot allow to happen is to abdicate our responsibilities to our democracy and to our citizenship.” The Stanford-educated historian and humanities scholar went on to say that journalists “are in the enhancing society business,” and even though the pay is not often substantial—and neither is respect for the profession in many quarters—journalism remains “a wonderful, noble cause.” And recognizing the importance of journalism as a foundation of our nation and our society, Gregorian noted emphatically that “universities have a moral, social, and intellectual responsibility to nurture the spirit of independent inquiry that the best journalists and journalism embody.” He lauded, too, the dedication of those professors who have found their calling in educating the next generation of journalists.

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