Redefining Reporting

American newspapers, faced with rising costs, are struggling to reverse a decline in circulation. Now, a survey of 571 top editors reveals most of them have "a sharply increased appetite for more two-way connections with readers."

Nine of 10 editors say the future of their profession depends on more interactivity with readers, according to the survey, which was sponsored by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, along with the Associated Press Managing Editors and the National Conference of Editorial Writers. Certainly, newspapers' websites have helped foster such connections.

But perhaps most encouraging, one-third of the editors say they've made a concerted effort to move away from doing stories built on "conflict." Rather, they seek to include a spectrum of viewpoints, and consider the impact of their reporting on the community. Eight in 10 of those surveyed say they provide solutions to community challenges in their reporting.

Jack Nelson, chair of the Pew Center's Advisory Board and chief Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, rightly calls this a healthy development - for the press and the public. Journalists need to think of themselves, and their institutions, as part of the communities they report on, not separate from them. They need to deal with the gray areas of many issues, instead of just the black and white, while still maintaining independence and objectivity. These are no small tasks. But they're certainly goals worth aiming for.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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