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Mitch Albom: “I can’t say I’m thrilled with the state of journalism as it is today”

by Kathleen Alexander

Mitch Albom, respected journalist and best-selling author, talks with Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today about the changing nature of journalism. He shares his concerns for the future as social media and mobile devices bring public platforms to the fingertips of the masses creating a complicated online domain of more words and fewer facts.

“Lose the whole idea of blogging and tweeting having anything to do with journalism,” says Albom.

Microblogging, such as tweeting, couldn’t be further from methods of journalistic writing, according to Albom. Tweeting is done instantaneously with no significant thought, while journalism is a craft that requires values, research, writing and editing, says Albom. He believes that the push from social media and the internet can have a negative impact on journalism and create an environment where being the first to report takes precedence over accuracy.

“If all they want is to be first with something,” he explains. “They better hang up their journalism hats and say, ‘we're obviously not in the business of being right, were in the business of being first.’”

Albom also expresses concern over what becomes news when there is so much pressure to produce the next headline. He predicts that if rumors and criticisms continue to be at the forefront of the news, there will continue to be significant changes in how the public consumes media.

“Eventually, we will get to a point in society where nobody trusts anybody to bring them the news, and everyone is presumed to be a liar.  And then you might have the skepticism that it deserves,” he says. “I would hate to see it come to that.”

Often involved in media himself, Hollis talks with Albom about the power of words from public figures.

“We do affect people, positively or negatively, with the words that we write,” he says.

Albom agrees by stating that as a reporter or writer it’s crucial to be out in the very world you are writing about, which is becoming an increasingly rare practice as computer screens replace face-to-face interactions.   

President Simon also acknowledges the ways in which Albom has used his voice to make a positive impact in the community outside of his writing. Albom shares how he was first inspired to start philanthropic work in 1995, after the death of a close college professor, and has continued to fulfill what he calls an obligation ever since.  He is passionate about giving back, whether it be supporting suffering families in Haiti or the homeless in Detroit.

“The more charitable stuff I’ve done the more I feel like I’m living,” he says.  “It’s going to be what you do for other people in the end that is going to make for a happy life.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on AM 870.

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