The "grand experiment" now under way to cut costs and reduce staff in daily newspaper publishing and network news is affecting the quality of journalism, as the media lowers standards to stay in business.
David M. Shribman, a columnist and assistant managing editor of the Boston Globe, who won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1995 for his coverage of Washington and the American political scene, said Friday he is troubled by the experiment and the passive entertainment values openly displayed in news and politics.
He delivered his assessment of the industry during the 50th anniversary and rededication of St. Bonaventure University's Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Asking students to make an effort to read a newspaper at least once before the end of next week, the former Buffalo News reporter said that making a habit of reading newspapers "may help civic life return to some of its mores."
Journalism's early function was to foster debate of conflicting ideas, educate and challenge the public, and spur political and civil discourse, he said. The relinquishment of this work and the televised coverage of Congress may be responsible for flagging voter turnout, has created grandstanding politicians and has changed the way politics is conducted, he told the large group assembled in Dresser Auditorium.
"This is a time of contentment. The press is quiet, lazy and infused with entertainment values," said Shribman, adding that the public is irritated because it senses it is being pandered to instead of challenged.
Other speakers, several Pulitzer Prize-winning graduates and journalists given Distinguished Alumni awards, talked about their profession and paid tribute to Russell J. Jandoli. Jandoli mentored many of the program's graduates who took the podium during the ceremony, and was the first department head and its first journalism instructor when it started in 1949.
John Hanchette, a 1964 graduate, is a national correspondent for Gannett News Service and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, along with 1958 graduate Robert Dubill, for a series of articles about troublesome financial dealings of a religious order in Doylestown, Pa.
Hanchette said as a new graduate he lost his first job in public relations but in three hours Jandoli found him a spot at the Niagara Falls Gazette, where he said he immediately felt at home.
Dubill, USA Today executive editor, recalled Jandoli's disapproval with a story he turned in because he couldn't reach sources to fill the obvious holes in the information.
Jandoli, he said, told him: "A reporter never stops and he never sleeps. You've got to stay hungry."
Besides Hanchette and Dubill, 1980 graduate Dan Barry was given a Distinguished Alumni Award and spoke to the group. Also a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1994, he and others in an investigative team with the Providence Journal-Bulletin reported on the state court system in a series that led to the indictment of the state's chief judge. Barry now works for the New York Times as a general assignment reporter.
Posthumous Distinguished Alumni Awards also were given to 1965 graduate Tom Mosser, a Young & Rubicam public relations executive who was killed by the Unabomber in 1994, and to 1966 graduate Pat Farren, a peace activist who organized the university's first student protest and refused induction into the military. He founded a monthly journal called Peacework in 1973, edited books on nonviolence and was a renowned peace journalist when he died in 1994 of cancer.