Robert Rosenthal: Investigative Journalism Must Embrace Tech (Audio and Transcript)
“The adversarial relationship between journalism in this country and power has existed [for decades],” he tells Scheer, “and governments will use, abuse and spin information and hope they don’t get caught.”
This led Rosenthal to The Center for Investigative Reporting, where he became executive director in 2008. He says he is proud of the CIR for helping to “create a new model” of storytelling on the internet.
“The simple way I describe it is, if you think of a wheel … in the center of that wheel is the story. But build a news organization where every spoke is a different platform, a different way to tell a story,” he tells Scheer. “So you embrace the technology, and deliver storytelling to people in ways they’re most comfortable with.”
The two discuss the need for more successful business models for investigative journalism, as well as the rise of fake news. “There’s great reporting being done, and yet,” Scheer says, “the basic journalistic model is broken.”
Rosenthal agrees, noting that there is a vast difference “between media and journalism.”
“Whether you want to call it fake news, propaganda, distortion,” Rosenthal says, “these are all very dangerous tools that really are accelerated and weaponized in the age of the internet.”
After Scheer notes that more media outlets are finally beginning to challenge White House narratives now that Donald Trump is in office, Rosenthal responds: “The best journalists challenge that. But they’ve also been part of that system. … It’s quite seductive to be covering the president of the United States. … there’s a coziness that I’ve always thought was uncomfortable.”
Listen to the full conversation in the player above. Read the transcript below. Find past editions of “Scheer Intelligence” here.
RS: Hi, this is another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Robert Jon “Rosie”–is it Jon or Yon?–“Rosie” Rosenthal.
RR: You got it all. Thank you.
RS: I got it all there.
RR: Great to be here.
RS: And, ah, who I have known both as a working editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, on occasion when I’ve written for the publication. But going back to your history, you were the, ended up being the editor of a major American newspaper the Philadelphia Inquirer. And first you went there working as a journalist; you came from a journalistic family, and one of the themes of this podcast series is to isolate these American originals; out of the crazy-quilt of American culture, somehow we produce a range of people who have integrity, are interesting in different ways, stand for something. And I’d put you firmly in that category. You got into journalism, I believe, because your father was a journalism professor at, we used to call it CCNY, the City College of New York; it’s now a part of CUNY. But it was one of those great public experiments in education. Of those of us who went to City College, and that included Abe Rosenthal of The New York Times and Colin Powell of the State Department, we all felt we were going to the best school in the world. And was that your first taste of journalism? You grew up in New York, and–?
RR: Yeah, my father, as you said, Irving Rosenthal, started the journalism program at City College in the 1930s. It was the height of the Depression, and he did that. And I grew up really, what I remember is he would come home in the evening, and in those days there were a lot of newspapers in New York and he’d bring home six or seven newspapers: The New York Times, the Herald-Tribune, Telegram and Sun, New York Post, Daily News. And I just always read newspapers. And what I read, mainly, was sports. But the other thing that I always recall is that we’d be in the car, we’d be driving somewhere, and somebody would be on the radio from anywhere in the world, and he’d say, “He was a student of mine,” or “She was a student of mine.” In fact, for those listeners who know who Daniel Schorr was, he was actually in my father’s first class; he was one of the most distinguished public radio journalists, he was on Nixon’s enemies list. And the man, Mike Oreskes, who runs NPR today, was also a student of my father’s. So that’s a big arc of time. But I grew up, really through osmosis, just loving to read, and always had this sort of romanticism, especially about being a foreign correspondent.
RS: So you had the inspiration of your father, and so forth. And you went to work for The New York Times after college, and you worked there for a few years. And the reason, one reason why I wanted to do this interview with you, is you’re not one of the old fogies. I mean, we’re old fogies. But you’re not one of them who thinks the good old days were great and today sucks and all that; you’re actually, I should have mentioned, you’ve been running the Center for Investigative Reporting, based in Oakland and Emeryville. Which is a new model of journalism; it’s, you’re multimedia, you’re–in fact, this station, KCRW, carries your Reveal series and other programs that you generate. And so what I like, when I run into people like you, is that I like it when they say, hey–in some ways, this is much more exciting.
RR: Yeah, I–well, what happened to me, as you mentioned, I eventually, with no plan, became the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, where I’d worked for a long time and I’d been a foreign correspondent. And I became the editor in 1998, when the Inquirer was arguably one of the best papers in the United States; it was a Pulitzer Prize factory, it was an incredibly talented, ambitious newsroom. It was part of the Knight-Ridder chain, it was the flagship paper; it was the biggest paper with the most revenue. And I became the editor in ‘98 and was fired almost four years later because the business model for newspapers really collapsed, as we know. And I was a journalist, I wasn’t a businessman, and had difficulties with the corporate people; I’m sure they would tell you they had difficulties with me. And for about a year before I got fired, I knew I’d either get fired that day, or I’d quit. Well, I never could quit because I was too loyal to the staff; there were 630 people when I started. And then after a year, I had many job offers on the East Coast, but I came to San Francisco, as you alluded to, and became the managing editor of the Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle. But after four years there, I was really fed up with corporate media and the inability to really, I think, grab the opportunity of the Internet, and also figure out new ways to tell stories. And I did go to the Center for Investigative Reporting at the beginning of 2008, and I’m very proud of the fact that CIR was the first nonprofit investigative reporting organization established in ‘77. But when I got there, it was about to close, and there were six or seven people, and it was the height of the recession. And in the last nine years, CIR has grown 10-x, and it’s done a lot of really important, what I would call social justice journalism. But more importantly, it also helped create a new model of really embracing the storytelling. And the simple way I describe it is, if you think of a wheel–and this is what I did in 2008–in the center of everything in the organization is the story. So in the center of that wheel is the story, but build a news organization where every spoke is a different platform, a different way to tell a story. So you embrace the technology and deliver storytelling to people in ways they’re most comfortable with. So it could be a podcast today, it could be radio, it could be audio, it could be video, it could be an animation, it could be data visualization, it could be text, obviously; video. We’ve done plays, we’ve worked with spoken-word poets, transforming in deep reporting to those platforms. So it’s really getting at and reaching an audience in the way it wants to get information. And obviously social media has also exploded, the ability to publish and reach vast audiences with the right story.
RS: Yeah, no question. It’s exciting. I run, you know, I’m the editor of Truthdig magazine. And you know, in the old days, a small, socially conscious publication would probably be like The Nation or The New Republic; they’d be lucky to get 50,000 readers, and now if we don’t get millions, you know, certainly over the course of a month if we don’t get a few million we think we’re going out of business. So I understand that. The one thing, though, with the new model is–no, clearly, with the Internet you’ve got the best and worst of all worlds. You’ve got a way of getting a story out there so people are reading it an hour later in Beijing, they’re reading it in London, or all sorts of places. What you don’t have is a way of paying them in the traditional model. And the Center for Investigative Reporting–I happened to go up there a few weeks ago and talk with your buddy Phil Bronstein, who used to be the editor of the San Francisco Examiner and then the Chronicle when the Hearst paper brought it over–you guys have a budget of around, what, $11 million a year? You got about 75 people on the staff, it’s a big–it looks like a high-tech firm, it’s there in the center of the high-tech center of Silicon Valley of Emeryville! [Laughs] And you guys look as trendy and as modern as can be. And the interesting thing–I do want to stress this–it’s a model of journalism that is absolutely critical now, because a lot of the good reporting is being done by tax-exempt organizations that can get money from foundations, right? You know, and that’s really feeding a lot. And yet, it’s commercial, for-profit companies like The New York Times that you’re teaming up with.
RR: Yeah, we don’t team up that often with the Times for lots of different reasons. But the model also is based in one of the things we did; we sort of turned the whole idea of competition and collaboration inside out. Because in the old days, you know, if you were doing a big story at a newspaper, you didn’t want anybody to know. But when I came to CIR, if we put a story on our website, hardly anybody would see it. So we were able to begin building trust and work with newspapers, radio, television, you name it, to take our stories to a much bigger audience. And it’s also partnering and working with them on stories. So you go to a news organization like CNN or a radio station around the country, KPCC, KCRW here, we’ve worked with. And you do stories with them, and you multiply the ability of the journalist to not only do the work and accelerate it, but you’re taking strength to strength; you’re melding strengths. So this was a really different idea, you know, eight, nine years ago, and it’s really taken hold. And it works, and I think it’s absolutely essential to really do this high-quality work. Because the business model does not exist yet for deep, long-form investigative reporting on whatever platform you’re doing it on. It’s highly expensive, and it’s–a lot of great work’s being done, but it’s not central to the business model of for-profit media.
RS: Well, so I want to get to that. Because you know, for the people who are–there’s a lot of talk now about fake news, and it’s blamed on the Internet, you know, because obviously people can post things all over the place, and so forth. But the fact is, by the standards of traditional, real news reporting–getting the facts, getting the documents, you know, making the connections, doing the legwork and so forth–the fact is, there’s great reporting being done. And yet, the basic journalistic model is broken, OK? So even, you know, once-lush papers like the LA Times, where I worked for 29 years and so forth, where they could even fly us first-class–oh, stay longer, go get the story–it was called the velvet coffin at one point, because you could fall asleep out there working on your two-month story. But The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, they always had a tremendous amount of resources–they can’t cover those stories now. And one way–and you know, it’s one thing to say you team up with KCRW, which is also a nonprofit 501(c)3 or something. But it’s a little more awkward to see these commercial newspapers that are still responding to stockholders have to earn a profit, you know, and yet are teaming up with the nonprofit. And I think it’s valid, and you know, Truthdig is a hybrid organization; most of us out there who can cover anything have to get some, you know, foundation support to help it going. But do you think this could turn? Do you think somebody like Donald Trump or someone else is going to say, hey, wait a minute! You know, just as they used to attack NPR, and do now, might they say: What is The New York Times doing in bed with, say, ProPublica–which is a tax-exempt organization, right? They’re using money that would have otherwise gone to taxes–
RR: Yeah, I think–well, we’re not paying the for-profits. But there’s absolutely potential vulnerability, because what happens is there’s something called a 501(c)3 for a nonprofit journalism organization, which is an IRS tax-exempt status. So if people give us money, or a foundation, you know, they get a tax break. And obviously foundations, that’s their job to give away money; individuals it’s a different question, when you’re raising money. Yeah, I think there’ll be political pressure. I think the fact of the matter is that the nonprofit journalism space has grown in the last seven to 10 years with the collapse of legacy media and journalism, and also an awareness on the part of funders that these organizations like ours–ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, many others–can do really good and important work. And the big difference, though, Bob, is that I–when someone comes to work at CIR, what I’ll literally tell them is: You need to do the best and most important work of your career, and the stories have to make a difference. Because if they do, that’s our business model. I don’t care, honestly, if 10 million people see it, but if you do a story and the right U.S. senator waves it around and legislation changes, or a problem is, people are suddenly aware of a problem in the community they live in, and action is taken, at least, to positive change–that’s our metric of success. And it’s a really different model, because the quality of the work the people at CIR do is really what sustains us. I mean, it’s got to make–and the work has to make a difference, and we’re not–we’re nonpartisan. The goal is–and you know, when President Obama was president, we did a lot of stories that the Obama administration didn’t like. Obviously now, with Trump being president, there’s plenty of stories to do. So, but we also go deeper into places where you’re away from the glare and the spotlight of Washington and New York, because a lot of the, what I call the information deserts, exist around the country where newspapers and other news organizations have been eviscerated. And we haven’t even really begun to talk about, you know, what I call the difference between media and journalism and the divide we’re in in this country now around information, whether you want to call it fake news, propaganda, distortion. And these are all very dangerous tools that really are accelerated and weaponized, in a sense, in the age of the Internet.
RS: OK. So on that thought, and I’m going to take issue with you, but let me just take a break here, and I’ll be back in a moment….I’m back with Robert Rosenthal. And you know, he’s getting up there in age, but he’s been running the Center for Investigative Reporting, which is about as modern and new-media as you can get; they operate in all forms, you know, video and radio and social media and everything else. But your roots go back to being a young kid coming out of college and working at The New York Times at a time when Daniel Ellsberg brought the Pentagon Papers. And for people who don’t know this history, there was a record that had been compiled in the Pentagon; it was an accurate history of how we got into Vietnam. It was done during the late sixties for Robert McNamara. And anyone who read it knew the war made no sense. Well, the war went on, and millions of people got killed after it. And so Daniel Ellsberg, reading this thing and working on it, said the public has a right to know. That always becomes the real question: is this information–and in his case, he went to The New York Times. In Snowden’s case, he went to The Guardian and The Washington Post. They won Pulitzer Prizes for this, right? So the basic decision about the value of that, news value, in the case of most of these whistleblower cases, is really made by respectable news organizations.
RR: Yeah, and you know, that really makes the difference, I think, is the ability to tell the story. And people look at the whistleblowers, and some people call them traitors, and some people call them heroes. But based on what American democracy is, and the role of the press and journalism in that democracy for well over 200 years now, is to challenge authority and do things that are really uncomfortable. And there have been moments, like you know, when the Nixon administration enjoined the Times from publishing after the third stories came out–
RS: Put us there–wait a minute, you were there, you were in The New York Times newsroom. You were a young kid, you had just come out of college–right? OK, put us there. What happened?
RR: Well [Laughs], I was 22, and I worked on the foreign desk. I’d been at the Times like about six months, and I’d been a copy boy, which meant you ran all over the newsroom. And actually I was the Internet, because you’re bringing paper–in basket, out baskets; it’s hard to conceive of what that was like today with technology and the way newspapers are published, or media works. And I got a phone call one night, and someone had to track me down, because I was at a friend’s house. And it was one of the editors at The New York Times, and he basically got on the phone and he said: “We want you to come to Room 1111 at the Hilton Hotel tomorrow. Bring enough clothes for a month and don’t tell anybody where you’re going.” And at first I said, “What?!” Anyway, I showed up the next day, and within a few hours I was Xeroxing top-secret documents. But it was an incredible experience, because I was inside the bubble, so to speak, with really talented journalists–I was 22–who were writing and editing and putting together–and the Times had to move everybody offsite, because we were dealing with thousands and thousands of pages of classified documents, which no newspaper had ever received. And there was a real risk that everybody who touched any of them would be arrested under the Espionage Act, or we didn’t know what. So the Times moved a team of people to the Hilton, which is on Sixth Avenue at about 56th Street, I think, in New York. And we worked out of suites of rooms there for a couple of months. And I slept in the room [Laughs] with the Pentagon Papers, because one of my jobs was two huge filing cabinets, and if people needed documents for quoting or research, I’d have, I knew where everything was; I could keep, I kept track of it. And every day was about 16 or 18 hours. And on June 13th, 1971, the first stories came out.
RS: In The New York Times, and then Nixon denounced it?
RR: Well, the first day there wasn’t a big reaction. And the headline was “The Secret History of the Vietnam War,” which was, which this was, which showed from the end of World War II and President Truman, right through Johnson’s presidency–it actually was not about the Nixon administration at all, because it had been written and finished–
RS: No, but I mean Nixon was in power.
RR: Nixon was the president. And on the second day, they flipped out, because they realized this was top secret stuff. And even though when you hear the Nixon tapes, he basically was saying, you know, this is really about the democrats, this could hurt Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, you know, his brother, blah, blah, blah. But then they stopped, they tried to stop the Times from publishing with an injunction, saying this was, national security was being threatened. The Times refused, and then the court stepped in. And after about 16 days, the Supreme Court ruled that the Times could keep publishing. Meanwhile, Ellsberg was scurrying around the country handing out chunks of the Pentagon Papers; the Post got some, The Washington Post; the Boston Globe [got] a special lot of papers. And one of the things people don’t really understand, that as a result of this leak, the Nixon White House unleashed the plumbers, which led to Watergate, that led to the downfall of his presidency, to find out who Ellsberg–they knew, they were pretty sure it was Ellsberg, but they actually were thinking of killing him at one point. And the story was, you know, some people consider it one of the most important stories of the last part of the 20th century.
RS: Right. But now we look back and say, oh! Edward Snowden, he released too much, or he did it the wrong way! Ellsberg’s the hero! But I remember at that time, like you say, the Nixon administration wanted to kill him; they wanted to ban The New York Times and go after–
RR: Kissinger, on one of the tapes, refers to Ellsberg as “the most dangerous man in America.”
RS: Yeah. Right. And we’ve never actually had the legal decision about whether The New York Times could be prosecuted for publishing it, because it ended up in a deadlock decision here in Los Angeles–
RR: Yeah, well, after the case got–and Ellsberg, actually what they were afraid of–it’s a little bit of history here, and he has a new book coming out–they were afraid he knew that they were, they had secret plans to use nuclear weapons in North Vietnam. And that’s what they were really afraid of, that he would leak that; he didn’t know it at the time. But he has, anyway, he–
RS: Yeah. So our government might commit the greatest war crime, and kill these people in Vietnam with nuclear weapons, but we can’t be in on the debate. And I don’t know, to my mind–because I had already been in Vietnam when I read the Pentagon Papers, I’d done a lot of research, I’d written about it. And what was different about it was, here they couldn’t keep doing their fake news. Because up to then–and I have to get back to that word, it ticks me off [Laughs], having spent a lot of my life exposing government fake news of lots of different governments–the fact of the matter is, they put out a lie that this was a war for democracy. Same thing with the Iraq war. All fake news. And people need to be reminded of it, you know? And yes, there’s one good thing about the Trump administration: people are now expecting their president to give them fake news. They are alert. The media is alert. We’re finally getting in this situation where the media wants to call out the president. But you go back long enough to remember a time when, no, they hesitated to do that.
RR: Yeah, I think the adversarial relationship between journalism in this country and power has existed, and I don’t disagree at all. I mean, governments will use and abuse and spin information and hope they don’t get caught and disclosed. And I think the awareness now, you know, because of the situation we’re in with President Trump and his, you know–not only is it fake news, it’s, the media, he says, is an enemy of the people, a threat to democracy. These, in my opinion, are incredibly dangerous language, and it can lead to God knows what. And I also think that, you know, this divide around where you get your information is dangerous. But you’re absolutely right: fake news, disinformation, abuse, has always existed, and the best journalists challenge that. But they’ve also been part of that system. The Washington press corps–it’s quite seductive to be covering the President of the United States. I don’t think under this administration that happens, but there’s a coziness that I’ve always thought was uncomfortable.
RS: Why do we do this? I mean, we ain’t getting any younger; why do we care? Why do we want to reach people? And you know, people forget, journalism can be a very risky occupation. And when you got into it, it actually didn’t pay very well. [Laughter] It wasn’t ‘til–you know, I mean, we were the ink-stained wretches, as I recall. And people would even question, you know, like the old joke about a rabbi, is that a job for a Jewish boy? [Laughter] You know, I would hear this stuff of–”Why do you want to do journalism?” I mean, I was studying engineering at City College; I didn’t take your father’s course. I thought that, you know, journalism, well, I’d be a loser, even then–with television, the pay scale. But you, you–and with a great reporter from the LA Times, I just would like to close. Because it isn’t a game. People that take journalism seriously, quite often they risk jail, they risk all–you know, horrible circumstance. And there was a story, I remember reading it, and it concerned you and Chuck Powers, who was a guy I really had a lot of respect for at the LA Times. And just, let’s conclude, so people know–gathering the news is–well, Edward Snowden right now, his life has been messed up. You know, he’s got to be worried about, now, what happens in Russia, what happens here, where’s the CIA. And you got in the midst of that. And so why don’t we sort of wrap this up by you talking about–
RS: –really, being imprisoned by one of the most fearsome individuals in the world as you were trying to do your job.
RR: Well, it was in 1982. And I think, just to–you’re right, I think journalism, the best journalists are very passionate, creative, driven people. And they’re risk-takers, and at the same time, no journalist starts to get rich. [Laughs] But no, I always wanted to be a war correspondent, and I wanted adventure, and I loved all kinds of things when I was a reporter. And in 1982, when I’d just started being the Africa correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the spring of ‘82 I went to Uganda. And Idi Amin–who some of you may know who he is, or was–one of the most brutal dictators ever, and really a savage African leader–had just been deposed in a civil war, but had unleashed all kinds of forces. And I went into Uganda, and there was a huge slaughter which wasn’t getting a lot of attention, in an area north of Kampala, the capital, called Luweero, where the army was rampaging. And it ended up killing, it was later discovered–took about six years–over 300,000 people. And I went into this area as a reporter one day, and then I came back to Kampala and I told Chuck, who Bob just mentioned worked for the LA Times, what I’d seen. Anyway, we got picked up, we went back the next day, we got picked up and we were taken to a place called Bombo barracks. And, long story short, I’m lucky I’m alive. But a few hours after they detained us, we were put in a, really a dungeon, that had about six inches deep on the floor of, you know, feces and urine. On some of the walls there were bloody handprints. I wrote a story, I called them “the silent screaming hands,” where people had been hit with machetes and killed. And we were whipped, we were kept only, thank God, only for three days. But I learned a lot about being helpless, and also empathy when you are being helpless. And after three days, because somebody had to go back to Kampala and left a note in the gate of the American embassy and said two Americans were arrested and beaten in Bombo barrack. Accountability kept us alive, I think. And I came out, and I got back to Nairobi a couple days later, and sat at an old typewriter, and for seven hours wrote a story [Laughs] that was in a lot of newspapers that weekend. It was a narrative account of what happened. But as a journalist, and even in my life, it really did teach me, as I said, about what it feels like to be truly helpless and face adversity and think you could die at any second. And also empathy for the people, the Africans who didn’t get released because somebody was looking for them.
RS: Who is going to own the media? Who is going to have power? And you have a situation–oh! The Washington Post, it’s great that Jeff Bezos, who [Laughs] owns Amazon, bought the Washington Post. And oh! Great, he’ll keep it going, and they’ll get real pay, and we know there are very good journalists there. But isn’t it also true that it’s not likely the Washington Post will cover Amazon’s connection to build a cloud for the CIA? Or it might not cover working conditions at a company like Amazon, or some of the contradictions of a marketing system that rules out local enterprise?
RR: Yeah, I think this is obviously an inherent conflict. And I think personally, and I can’t speak for everybody, anytime I became aware of a situation that could have created a negative perspective on anyone associated with the newspapers I worked for, my biggest fear was not to do that story, if you could nail it and prove you were right. Because the credibility of the institution was the most important thing to me. And I think, you know, The New York Times has an expression, “without fear or favor”–in other words, you do the story if you can prove it’s true. And I think that, to me, is the foundation of the best journalism. And having credibility within an institution or an organization that does that is really the most valuable asset it can have in terms of what you bring to the public. And I think right now we’re in this world, obviously, where a lot of this stuff is blurred because we have mission-driven business models that are clearly political. And the most, you could argue that the most influential publisher in the world right now, tweets, and can reach an instant audience, millions and millions of people, and be amazingly disruptive to whatever’s going on. So this has all changed. So I do think it gets back to what I would consider the credibility of the organization, and at the same time, I know in my own career there were times my publishers would be really pissed off that we were doing this story, but nothing ever got stopped. The way things got stopped, though, was money. And I’ll give you a really good example. Because people, they would cut funding, so you couldn’t do investigative reporting, or you couldn’t send somebody somewhere. In the spring of 2001, before 9/11 happened, I worked with a great reporter named David Zucchino at the Inquirer. And I knew that no one was reporting from Afghanistan. And we actually talked about going to find Bin Laden and find out what was going on. And he could take risks; he may not have gotten to Bin Laden, but it was really, what is going on with Bin Laden and the Taliban and that whole thing–because he had vanished, if you think about it. And I went to the publisher, and this was going to break beyond budget, and I told him what I wanted to do. And I said this is going to be really dangerous; this guy can do it; I want to send a photographer. And he said, who gives an “f” about Afghanistan? And he wouldn’t give me the money. Because it wasn’t something that would bring in any revenue. So to me, that is another place of risk we haven’t talked about, and it can be a whole ‘nother conversation. That’s really, with the collapse of media and newspapers and local media and local newspapers around the country, it’s really a problem we don’t focus on enough. Because just think about all the communities that have no journalists, and nobody’s watching what anybody’s doing.
RS: Ah, I don’t want to end on a depressing note. I want–no, I think, the fact of the matter is, you don’t have to be doing this quite this way. You could have said, hey, I was held in jail and I was tortured, and I’m not, you know, I was whipped, and I’m not doing this anymore–you didn’t do that. You kept being a foreign correspondent. And I think there’s something in the breed of journalists, that has now fortunately expanded–because we now have women journalists, we have brown and black journalists, we have people who can speak different languages because their parents were born in different countries or they themselves were. And–and, to my mind, the really exciting thing, because of the Internet and translation functions and so forth, I know last night at four, five o’clock in the morning I was reading stories from the Irish and the Chinese press. So can we end on the idea that if, as a young person out there who is thinking about journalism, that actually this might be the best time?
RR: I agree. I’m not pessimistic. I think if you’re a storyteller and you want to be a journalist, combining those skills, there’s never been a time like this in terms of the ability to tell stories in new ways. You know, I grew up writing in newspapers, and that’s great. But I mean, if I knew how to do animations or shoot video or even could tweet creatively–I mean, there’s limitless opportunities to reach audiences now and tell stories. What I believe in, though, is deeply fact-based reporting and then storytelling. And, but storytelling–we haven’t talked a lot about it–was central to everything I believed in, because we’re all hardwired for stories. And we’re also hard-wired for listening and seeing. And each way you tell a story opens up opportunities to use different senses, in a way. So I love storytelling, and the technology has enabled storytelling, anybody can become a storyteller if you know how to do it well and you have the right story. And connect–I mean, part of storytelling is creating empathy and relevance, and sometimes outrage.
RS: Well, that does it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. My guest has been Robert Rosenthal, one of the greats in American journalism. Our producers are Josh Scheer and Rebecca Mooney. Here at KCRW, Kat Yore and Mario Diaz were the terrific engineers. See you next week.
—Posted by Emma NilesWait, before you go…
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