Director candidate: journalism still needed

Although some believe that journalism is on its deathbed, certain inevitable truths regarding human nature will keep journalism alive and healthy in the future, a Detroit Free Press editor said Monday during a campus visit.

Caesar Andrews, a finalist for the Schieffer School of Journalism’s open director position and the executive editor for the Detroit paper, said it is human nature not only to want information, but also to look to experts who can interpret what that information means. Andrews said that although the newspaper business revenue has fallen during the past few years, the industry still generates $55 billion per year in revenue.

The Schieffer School has selected Andrews as a finalist for the school’s director position. Journalism professor John Tisdale took over as interim director after the founding director, Tommy Thomason, resigned from the position in March.

Andrews has worked in journalism for almost 30 years. He has held senior positions at Gannett Suburban Newspapers in White Plains, N.Y., and USA Today, among others. He also served as an editor-in-residence for a year at his alma mater, Grambling State University. In addition, Andrews served six years on the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

In order to keep journalism alive as a profession, Andrews said journalism schools must adapt to digital demands. Getting students acclimated to new digital forms of media is essential to keeping journalism alive, Andrews said.

“It’s not just an awareness of digital trends, and it’s not just the purchase of certain equipment,” Andrews said. “It is really creating a fluency as it relates to the digital options for telling stories.”

However, Andrews said he believes the most important aspect of a successful journalism organization is its ability to understand its audience.

“Ultimately, it’s not about the technology … that is just the means of getting someplace,” Andrews said. “But the content, still, makes all the difference in the world.”

Andrews said he believes developing alliances can help a university journalism program attain the resources it needs to simulate a professional environment. Andrews said he wants to not only cultivate alliances across campus, but with other universities around the state and the nation.

Andrews said even before recent staff and budget cuts that have hit most newspapers, it was difficult to have a “workable strategy for covering all the things that we wanted to cover.”

“It’s virtually impossible to do A to Z anymore,” Andrews said. “It is very important to carve out the particulars that make sense for your program.”