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Gwen Ifill of 'PBS NewsHour' leads talks about media in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for The PBS NewsHour, said she grew up getting her news from morning and afternoon newspapers and an evening broadcast.

"Looking back on it now, it seemed like an incredibly narrow way to get my information," she said.

Ifill moderated a panel Tuesday of five media experts and leaders PBS gathered to discuss radical changes in the news industry. They spoke at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism school that owns the St. Petersburg Times, before a crowd of about 160.

The changing media landscape has affected Ifill's own program, which has beefed up its Web presence and aims for shorter stories.

The Internet makeover has given consumers access to more information than ever, according to a Pew Research Center study.

"You've got news coming at you in all directions," said Paul Tash, St. Petersburg Times editor, chief executive and chairman.

The leaders said shrinking news staffs have forced their organizations to place more value on consumers' ideas and priorities: Is it worth pouring time and money into articles readers won't read?

John Schueler, president of Media General's news outlets in Florida, including the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV Ch. 8, said sending Media General journalists to report on things covered by the Associated Press, such as Congress or the Superbowl, would not be in line with the company's hyperlocal approach.

"We want our people here," he said.

The discussion touched on the use of new media tools to complement reporting. Journalists are more willing to use online resources such as Facebook and Twitter to develop sources and ideas, even though the tools are not inherently journalistic, said Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter's interactivity director.

"People are leading journalists to more news," she said.

No journalist likes being beaten on a story or worrying that he or she is missing something. "As a journalistic work force, we're probably not quite as reliable at finding something going wrong at the edges as we once might have been," Tash said.

Still, he said, it's much too early to write off the print industry. "I think print has a long life to come."

The talk was part of a four-day swing through the bay area by NewsHour featuring public discussions that will culminate in a town hall meeting airing 9:30 p.m. Friday on WEDU-Ch. 3.

Gwen Ifill of 'PBS NewsHour' leads talks about media in St. Petersburg 04/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:29pm]
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