Four executives from major newspapers and television networks discussed decision making in the media on the Kalb Report Friday night as part of a GW-sponsored forum on ethics in journalism at the National Press Club.
Moderator Marvin Kalb and his guests explored the pervasive force the media has become in past decades – and questioned journalists’ standards.
“There are some bad apples out there and some recklessness that hurts us all,” said Eason Jordan, president of International Networks and Global Newsgathering for CNN.
“There is just more journalism, and not necessarily bad journalists,” said David Mazzarella, editor of USA Today.
Kalb said television networks and newspapers are pressured to be relentless in their pursuits. He cited media competition and corporate elbowing for high ratings and profits.
“Remember that media is a business – there’s no doubt about it,” Mazzarella said.
Jordan said the fact CNN is owned by Time Warner does not effect how it delivers news.
The panel said television journalism is forced to compete with entertainment television, and as a result, must try to present news in a popular manner while maintaining high journalistic standards.
Conversation turned to the media’s role in the lives of public officials, specifically in the case of Monica Lewinsky, with Kalb comparing recent presidential controversy to the Watergate scandal.
Leonard Downie Jr, executive editor of The Washington Post, said Watergate was an investigation of the president, while the Lewinsky situation is a war between the president and independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
“This is not a story that the media invented,” Mazzarella said.
The panel also discussed the Internet’s expanding role in journalism. With the increased presence of the Internet in homes, classrooms and businesses, people have a new, faster way to receive news and information.
Panelists warned that the drive to report news so quickly often results in a lack of accuracy and professionalism.
“The Web is here to stay,” said Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News. “The Internet is going to be a major news provider for many generations to come.”
One audience member said she canceled her subscription to the Washington Post because she read the paper online for free.
The final Kalb Report in this series is scheduled for next month and will feature a one-on-one conversation between Kalb and former CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite.
Kalb has spent more than 30 years in journalism as chief diplomatic correspondent for CBS News and as moderator of “Meet The Press.”
Currently, he directs the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University.
He established “The Kalb Report” as a visiting professor at GW during 1994-’95.