League members Linda McClain, Lois Corrin, and Julie Chang saying “thank you” to David Thigpen, Director of undergrad journalism at UC, after his presentation Sunday at Piedmont Community Church. Photo by Sue Taylor.
The importance of news, the ethics and skills of good journalism, and a rousing question/answer session were highlights of the Piedmont League of Women Voters forum on Sunday, Sept. 23. Lois Corrin, organizer of the event, chose speaker David Thigpen, because “news is so important right now.”
“Social media users have doubled in the last ten years,” said Thigpen, director of Berkeley’s new undergraduate journalism program. “And in the last two years, so has the number of students declaring they want careers in journalism.”
Thigpen defined social media as “not only Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snapchat,” but a multitude of platforms.
A veteran of newsrooms, including 20 years at Time magazine, he said print outlets are cutting reporters and news bureaus around the world, yet more information is available. “There is a vast wasteland of trolling, privacy breaches, and misinformation out there.”
That said, Professor Thigpen while answering questions, highlighted that journalists “democratize information.” And he said, “it’s a new world out there, but the young people I teach are used to it.”
“The social media genie is out of the bottle and there is no putting it back,” Thigpen said, adding that the responsibility for good information is shared all around.
At UC Berkeley, both undergraduate and graduate journalism courses teach basics of assuring accuracy, absence of bias, transparency, ethics, and writing for social good. When asked about trust, he said he teaches there is a social compact between reporters and readers and students are required to honor it.
Even though the business model of news has changed, print media are catching up.
His final positive words were that the “center” is the biggest part of the political spectrum in the US and will correct for far right or left extremes. From a 30-year news veteran, that was encouraging.
For more information, go to: www.journalism.berkeley.edu.