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Newspapers: 'HERE TO STAY'

Date: 9/15/2009

News industry will remain despite change of medium

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- "Try to stay local." That's the advice tenured New York Times columnist Frank Rich gave during an interview with Reminder Publications last week.

"This is not a time to come running to New York when there have obviously been layoffs at all the major [publications]," he continued. "This is a time to think of finding work in your own communities ... you can do journalism anywhere."

Rich has dedicated his professional life to the written word. He began his tenure at the Times as the publication's chief drama critic in 1980 and later became an op-ed columnist in 1994. Rich was the 2005 recipient of the George Polk Award for commentary, an honor that recognizes journalistic integrity and investigative reporting.

Rich warned that such journalistic qualities do not come without a price, however. But before media outlets cut more reporters to elevate their bottom line, consider this: such trends are nothing the industry hasn't seen before, according to Rich, who will headline the first installment of the Westfield State College (WSC) Foundation's 2009-2010 Speaker Series on Sept. 21.

"In the history of American communications there've been a series of major upheavals that have dramatically altered commercial culture," Rich explained. "The advent of radio, television, movies, talking movies, the advent of cable television and the Internet. Each one of these things has had a huge effect on how people get the news and the type of popular entertainment people access. It was assumed that newspapers and radio could die with the advent of television

"I think there will always be a market for quality journalism that digs deeply and lets people know what goes on behind the scenes and people will be willing to pay for it," he continued. "What's unclear and scary is that the vehicle [for delivering the news] will change."

Such outlets include the comedic satires of The Onion, "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Rich noted that viewers must receive their news from credible media outlets in order to follow Colbert or Stewart's quips.

Members of The Onion will provide their comedic insight into the world of mass media when they headline the Speaker Series on Feb. 24.

Other guests will include author Daniel Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future" on Oct. 5; Jon Bauman as his alter ego Bowzer, frontman of the Sha Na Na, on Nov. 21; and contemporary novelist Elinor Lipman on Dec. 8.

Headlining the series in 2010 will be radio host Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on Feb. 4; political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinshi on March 3; Gloria Steinem, feminist and founder of New York Magazine on March 31; and author Greg Mortenson on April 29.

"Last year we were very successful bringing our community together for evenings of thought and discussion and we're really proud to do it again this year," Robert Plasse, assistant to the President at WSC, said. "This fall there will be an eclectic mix of great evenings."

WSC President Evan Dobelle noted the aim of the Speaker Series is to provide a venue for "speakers who have an important impact nationally and internationally."

For additional information about the 2009-2010 WSC Foundation Speaker Series, visit