Veteran journalist says marketing is survival

John Seigenthaler is one of the lions of journalism, but at 83, he’s definitely not living in the past.

“Learning about business strategies and marketing today is not just survival, it’s wisdom.  The culture has changed.  Now, journalists — intelligent journalists — want to sell papers, attract readers, do anything they can do to get their stories read and told,” said Seigenthaler.

Speaking before a group of students at the University of Mississippi, Seigenthaler also fielded questions about objectivity, or the lack of it, in today’s journalism profession.

“In all my days in journalism, I have struggled with opinions that sometimes fluctuated related to objectivity,” Seigenthaler said.  “Sometimes the more subjective view gives readers or viewers a better sense of what the story is.”

He reminded the audience of journalism history, saying you would be hard pressed to find much difference between those we see on cable channels today and the pamphleteers of Colonial times.

“Whether you’re taking about Fox or MSNBC, there’s really not much on either other than opinion journalism.  Are Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow journalists?  I think they act as editorial and opinion writers; they interlace opinion with fact,” Seigenthaler said.

But Seigenthaler says the intermingling of opinion and entertainment today puts more of a burden on readers and consumers of news; they have to figure out what’s credible for themselves.

So, where is journalism going in the future?  Seigenthaler says online.

“I love the word marketing now;  years ago when I was managing a newspaper, I used to hate it,” Seigenthaler said with a laugh.  “Now, I would be marketing my online content — that’s the future.”