Jack Shafer, editor at large of the online political magazine Slate, envisions a world where, instead of buying printed magazines, people read periodicals on “tablets” that receive stories electronically.
Though the world may not yet be ready to get all of its news on the Internet, the directors of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism program deemed it appropriate to discuss the possibility at a panel titled “Does the Web Decide What’s in The New York Times?” on Tuesday afternoon.
National Review Editor Rich Lowry and Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at The New Republic, joined Shafer as panelists.
Between bouts of bickering between conservative editor and columnist Lowry and the liberal Shafer, the three journalists discussed how the advent of online journalism has affected their craft.
Shafer said the Internet has made news more immediately available. As a result, he said, newspapers take their cues from Internet news services.
“I think the Web does decide in some form what goes into The New York Times,” Shafer said.
But Lowry maintained that online and print journalism are different things.
“There’s no way we’re ever going to dispense with The New York Times,” he said.
Cottle said she sees tradition as the primary obstacle to a complete transition to online journalism. She said it would be hard to combine online and print journalism because people are accustomed to printed news.
The Web gives journalists an advantage, Cottle said, because it costs less to publish online than to print and mail a magazine. The immediate reader response to online articles, she added, is “simultaneously terrifying and fabulous.”
Shafer explained people’s hesitation to Internet news by noting that reading online can strain people’s eyes.
“[Reading things in print] gives us confidence, makes us comfortable,” Shafer said.
The panel was organized by the Poynter Fellowship, which sponsors similar talks at Yale throughout the year. Lincoln Caplan, a Yale-based journalist affiliated with the Law School, served as moderator for the discussion.
The committee that asked Cottle, Lowry and Shafer to speak was looking for “different voices with different experiences” to discuss “a question that would engage journalists and, with any luck, the audience,” Caplan said.
Henry Trotter GRD ’08 said he came to the panel to show his friend, a prospective student, what Yale has to offer.
Trotter added that the topic interested him.
“I’ve gained different expectations about news because of the Web,” he said.
Still, like Lowry, Trotter and fellow student Kristin Gilmore GRD ’04 said they hope that Shafer’s vision of a future of “tablet” journalism does not become a reality.
“I can imagine it happening, but I wouldn’t want it to,” Trotter said.