Wednesday, April 1, 2009
'60' Minutes' Kroft has good advice to journalism students and newspapers still trying to survive
"60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft had some good advice for journalism students at Indiana University:
Learn to write.
There is no replacement for good writing, telling a story in an effective, powerful way.
One of deepest points of deterioration in newspapers has been in the writing. A lot of the old pros have been put out to pasture for younger reporters who are forced to do many things -- which shows in their lack of attention to good writing.
It is poor. And it is hard to come up with a good writer left in the Midstate print market.
Kroft also told students that 60 Minutes' ratings are up sharply this year as viewers look for content and solid reporting, two other casualties of the decline in newspapers.
In a note on inter-office politics, Kroft said that the late Ed Bradley felt that Mike Wallace had screwed him out of a couple of good stories. Competitive fires within a newsroom also make for better content.
Here is an excerpt from the J-school's coverage of Kroft:
Kroft, who has been with the show for 28 years, said ratings are up about 15 percent in the last year, perhaps because viewers want this kind of reporting, something that is beginning to disappear from other media outlets as newspapers’ shrink and fold.
“The business model is changing,” Kroft said of how media outlets make money. “It’s up to journalists to make content and corporate to make money – they just haven’t figured out how to make money in this new media world. There’s always going to be a place for good content.”
“Good content” is more than just entertaining stories. Kroft talked about the Washington Post’s investigative coverage of injured soldiers’ treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and 60 Minutes’ later coverage of that story. Kroft said this is the kind of reporting that makes a difference, and it often finds its beginnings in newspaper reporting.
To the journalism students in the crowded theater, Kroft advised learning to shoot and edit video in order to make themselves more marketable. But his main piece of advice had to deal with something a bit more basic.
“Learn to write,” he said. “You can be born with that ability, but it’s also something that can be learned and, if that’s all you get from what you learned here, you’ll be fine.”