Director candidate shares optimistic view of dwindling journalism industry

The third candidate for the Schieffer School of Journalism’s director position gave a different outlook on the future of journalism than his two predecessors.

Craig Flournoy, who serves as an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University, said Monday in the Moudy South Building that the turmoil currently affecting the industry benefits young people because it allows them to move up the ladder faster.

“The idea that you could get a meaningful assignment in the first year was impossible,” Flournoy said. “That’s not the way it is now.”

Flournoy cited a University of Georgia study, which showed that 75 percent of journalism majors who graduated in 2007 found a job, and 60 percent found a job in their chosen career path.

“Young people [in journalism] have a more optimistic, positive view than any time in the last two decades,” Flournoy said.

In order to reverse the downward trend in circulation affecting most large newspapers, Flournoy said a change in the business model is needed. For almost two decades, many papers collected record profits but did nothing to expand their coverage while the Internet overtook them as a primary source of information, he said.

As a remedy, Flournoy said newsrooms need to offer exclusive online content to serve local audiences more efficiently.

Flournoy also said newspapers need to adjust to the explosion in popularity of blogs.

“I think they have to learn that a journalist no longer has a one-way communication with the audience,” he said.

Flournoy won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986for his investigation of racial discrimination in public housing trends in East Texas while working for the Dallas Morning News. It was the first time the paper had ever received the award. Flournoy worked for the Morning News for more 20 years from 1979 to 2000.

In addition, Flournoy has served as an instructor of journalism at Louisiana State University and Sam Houston State University. He earned a Ph.D. in journalism history at LSU in August 2003.

John Tisdale, interim director of the Schieffer School, said the search committee would likely meet this week. Tisdale said it is his intention to have a recommendation made before the Thanksgiving holiday. He also said the future director would likely not start until the next academic year because of obligations of the candidates.