Some of them have risked their lives on the streets of Baghdad while others chronicle breaking news in their own backyards. Some first learned their craft covering AIDS in Kenya and violence in South Africa while others had their career paths changed significantly by the events of September 11. One bears witness to the hopes and fears of a rabid Red Sox Nation while another is an emerging voice for an economically disenfranchised generation. Some work for the old media outlets that are losing their once-dominant grip on the news landscape and some are employed by the new media vehicles that are redefining news culture. All of them have achieved success in a highly competitive and challenging business. And none of them really knows what that business will look like in 10 years.
With the news industry at a confusing crossroads, one thing is certain: no matter how information is delivered, the future belongs to skilled journalists who can report, edit, and deliver it. The people on this list ó culled from many sources ó may not be household names. Some may be known only in their own households. But they are ambitious, committed, and talented. They have made their mark at a young age, have the potential for bigger and better things, and may well have a role in helping set the course of the media industry in the years and decades to come. We talked to them about their lives and careers, hopes and concerns. And about why they were drawn to journalism.
Adrian Holovaty, 24, editor of editorial innovations at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
When Chicago resident Adrian Holovaty came across the Web site for the cityís police department, he thought: "Itís cool to have access to all that information." But he also figured, "I could improve on that." With the help of a friend, a designer, Holovaty created Chicagocrime.org, a site that allows residents to track crimes in that city by location, date, and type. For those efforts, Holovaty was just named the winner of the $10,000 grand prize in the Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism, funded by the Knight Foundation.
A former editor of his high-school paper in Naperville, Illinois, and online editor of the University of Missouriís independent paper, The Maneater, Holovaty was just recently hired for his Washington Post Interactive job, which entails developing everything from searchable databases to map interfaces. Happily, he gets to do the job from his home in Chicago.
Holovaty admits he is not sanguine about the future of the newspaper industry. "Iím not optimistic about it because journalists tend to be so resistant to change," he says. "Newspapers really ought to be investing in technology and bringing technology people on board. I mean, Google and Yahoo are gonna walk all over us."
The young journalist who describes himself as a Web developer says his primary interests are "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable" and "public service, making information available to people." As someone who believes in the free (literally) flow of information, Holovaty says heís opposed to such experiments as the New York Timesí new program to charge for certain premium services online.
Dan Harris, 34, ABC news correspondent
After Dan Harris left his job at WCSH-TV in Portland, Maine, he had some trouble on the job market. "Nobody wants me because I look like Iím seven," recalls Harris. "I couldnít get a job."
But he did have a connection in Charlie Kravetz, an executive at the Boston-regional cable-news outlet, NECN. A Newton native and Colby College graduate, Harris worked at NECN from 1997 to 2000 until the big call came from New York. Itís no mean feat graduating from local cable news to a nightly network newscast.
"When ABC called me, I was literally shocked," Harris says. Hired to take over from Anderson Cooper on the networkís overnight World News Now broadcast, Harrisís career took off after the attacks of 9/11, at which point his mandate expanded. He reported from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq, and then last year was assigned to cover John Kerryís presidential bid. He recently returned from two weeks in New Orleans covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The late ABC anchor Peter Jennings "really took me under his wing," says Harris. "I was able to develop strengths I didnít know I had largely through Peter. [He] let me write the way I wanted to write, allowed me to develop a bit of a voice."
With ABC now searching for a new anchor, Harris figures that "in the short term, while there will be a lot of changes on the personnel front, our basic approach wonít change that much." In the long run, however, he thinks the network newscast may be headed toward "radical changes." Wherever the business goes, Harris hopes "there may be another golden age in journalism. Conceivably, by the time Iím a grown-up, the market will have sorted itself out in a way thatís favorable to people who have something to offer."
Matt Thompson, 24, deputy editor of interactive media at the Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Project for Excellence in Journalismís voluminous 2005 report on "The State of the News Media" begins with a reference to a widely circulated "mock documentary about the future of news" created by "two aspiring newsmen fresh from college." In its eye-opening and frightening futuristic scenario, the traditional press has been doomed to irrelevance, the New York Times is a niche newsletter for the elite and the elderly, and a company called "Googlezon" dominates the media universe by customizing content ó much of it sensational, trivial, and inaccurate ó for each individual user.
One of the documentaryís creators was Matt Thompson, a Toronto native and 2002 Harvard grad who cooked up the idea with a friend while visiting the bars of Miamiís über-trendy South Beach. "Our discussion kind of pre-empted any other enjoyment of Miami," he recalls.
Asked about his own future, Thompson, who was recently hired for the Star Tribune interactive job, says "I guess I definitely see myself online. I hope that journalism [becomes] something much more imaginative than what it is. I hope we really start taking advantage of the context and capacity the Internet provides."
Thompson, who was "really interested in screenwriting and documentary" work, interned a few years ago at Bostonís Scout Productions, producer of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. While attending a private Christian high school, he became the first-ever student editor-in-chief of the schoolís paper, thanks to his innovative ideas. (Until Thompson came along, the school librarian had done the job.) He was also the first online reporter at the Fresno Bee, introducing a set of story-form innovations including music videos and mini-documentaries. "The more creative I got, the more interest people had with it," he says.
Like Holovaty, Thompson believes journalism must adapt more effectively to dramatic technological changes. Asked how the creator of "Googlezon" sees the media world shaking out down the road, Thompson responds: "I definitely see a lot of folks making a lot of money. I donít know that it will support that giant infrastructure that news organizations" have relied on until now.
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Issue Date: October 14 - 20, 2005
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