Irving Chair in Journalism: ‘The days of presenting yesterday’s news are over’

Christine Morris, the 2017-18 Irving Chair in Journalism, told the next generation of journalists she believes in them.

Morris delivered a lecture on the state of the media industry in the Maritimes on Feb. 23 in Brian Mulroney Hall. She spoke about her time at STU, and the hope working alongside it’s students instilled in her.

“The classes I have attended and the students I have met are inspiring — there is an enthusiasm and wisdom that gives me great comfort about the future of journalism,” said Morris. “We are going through tumultuous times and huge change in the industry, but I believe the next generation of journalists will present the news in innovative ways that will reach far more people than today’s traditional sources.”

Morris spoke of her 40-year career as a reporter and how rewarding it is to cover issues at home.

“For the students here who wish to become news reporters, since you are in New Brunswick you should try for work in this region,” said Morris. “It is a great place to learn and practice the craft.”

“I can remember as a young reporter in the 1970s feeling a bit of dread when I moved to Fredericton from Nova Scotia,” said Morris. “Fredericton was considered something of an outpost in the news world.”

She said even though she had the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C. for a few years during the Bill Clinton presidency, Fredericton remained her true love.

“I loved it here, I made a home here with my husband and kids and I knew there were lots of stories to be told that would appeal to a wide audience.”

Morris also discussed how the field has changed during her tenure as a reporter and how it will continue to change for the reporters of the future.

“I think the quote: ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ really holds true to the way news reporting has evolved over the past few decades,” said Morris. “When I began my career … provincial governments were more open to new news coverage than they are today. Policy changes were fully explained. There was more accountability.”

She said public servants today rarely speak on or off the record and are often removed from the public debate “even though they are the ones who usually know what is really going on when it comes to the public’s business.”

The relationship between politicians and journalists isn’t all that has changed in the media. The medium for presenting has as well.

More and more the news has shifted away from print in favour of the screen.

“There obviously will be significant pain before the new business models are developed,” said Morris. “Here in New Brunswick it is a struggle for the newspapers to get readers past their online paywall, especially when the CBC, supported by tax payer dollars, offers its digital pages at no charge.”

Morris said the shift will give new power to the future journalists, though it may take some time for them to establish themselves.

“I can’t imagine there is a single model that will work. I’m sure a number of approaches will be employed to appeal to customers. The most important thing will be for reporters to go after stories that are fresh, different, relevant and interesting,” she said.

“The days of presenting yesterday’s news are over now that we are shifting to the immediacy of the digital world. I think people are slowly realizing journalism doesn’t come for free and that quality journalism is something they have to pay for.”

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