Former CBS President Andrew Heyward visits Cronkite School

Former president of CBS Andrew Hayward visited the Cronkite School on Tuesday to discuss the challenges facing the next generation of journalists.

Excited ASU students were given the opportunity to ask the veteran journalist questions ranging from the future of newspapers to how television news will innovate to keep pace with the internet. During the hour-long discussion, which was also open to the public, Heyward outlined his vision for the future with hints of both optimism and warning.

“Prior to the 1980s, newsrooms didn’t have to be profitable,” said Heyward. “They were ‘loss leaders’ that added prestige to the network. After that period there were all sorts of corporate changes. What’s harder now than it was even 10 years ago is the tremendous financial pressure that the newsrooms have. They are expected to do more with less.”

Despite these harsh realities, Heyward’s message wasn’t all bad. “The good news is it’s become significantly cheaper to produce and distribute news.”

Journalism is a far more welcoming field than it once was, according to Heyward. He said it offers a lot more reward for individual talent than it used to. As students scribbled furiously to keep up with Mr. Heyward’s rapid speaking style, he went on to say that journalists are no longer expected to fit into the cookie-cutter mold that was standard for old newsrooms.

In Heyward’s view, online startups like Vice, Vox and Buzzfeed are the future of print journalism. He believes that Vice is the most impressive of the three because they use old-fashioned reporting methods to craft their stories. “Something that’s very important to remember is it’s much easier to chase viewers away than it is to attract them,” he said. “You have to protect your core while going for more.”

On the innovation issue, Heyward explained the concept of a “social scanner.”  In much the same way as one would use a police scanner, newsrooms and broadcast stations can use a social scanner to form a two-way relationship with their audience by digging into social issues and other hot topics. “Local news has been floundering because their style is too formulaic. Wildfires and court cases only really interest those whom are directly affected by them. Running stories like that are easy, so in a way it’s reaching for the low-hanging fruit.”

In Heyward’s experience, there is a perception in the newsroom that being a reporter is an annoyance that one must simply get through, and that being an anchor is the big prize. He said in order to really improve the position that journalism is in, we have to create the mindset among professionals that being an anchor is the boring/unfulfilling role and that reporting is where the exciting, meaningful work is done.

“If there were more transparency in the process of news gathering/reporting between the professionals and their audience, it would increase journalist’s credibility and ease the perception that all journalism outlets are biased,” said Heyward.

In perhaps his most profound observation of the night, Heyward said that a journalist’s job is not to reveal truth, it’s to discover facts. This carries legitimate weight when you consider that what’s true to one person may not necessarily be true to someone else, so in order to cut through the bias, ignorance and personal perceptions, journalists must find the actual facts.

It’s difficult to tell exactly where journalism will go in the coming decades – even Andrew Heyward will confirm that. But there’s one thing he knew for sure: millennials are fortunate enough to be born at the most exciting and transformative period of journalism in centuries. Before departing the stage Heyward looked at the crowd and said, “I envy you.”

The irrigation challenge in America’s Southwest

After California Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory state-wide water restrictions in April, reducing our wet footprint seemed to finally become a topic of household discussion; not only in California, but across the nation. But with California grabbing all the water-related headlines, it’s made it difficult for less-populated states like Arizona and New Mexico to gain ground in the national water conservation discussion.

The entire Southwest is being effected by drought, not just the Golden State. It’s important that we as Americans give proper attention to the situation in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, which together are home to approximately 10 million people. Arizona in particular has an interesting irrigation system in place, known as the Central Arizona Project.

The CAP is a fresh-water canal that winds its way through the state, providing drinking/irrigation water to approx. 5 million of Arizona’s 6.7 million residents. Built in 1985, the CAP is a 336-mile system of aqueducts that divert water from the Colorado River and Lake Havasu. It serves as the “largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona” according to its website, http://www.cap-az.com.

Canals like this are a brilliant example of how we can keep the American Southwest inhabitable for generations to come, but only if we manage to sustain them. The reduction of water levels in the Colorado River has been a primary concern for the CAP, and its members are working to limit the use of river water by the people in the region.

The electrical plant which provides power to the CAP (thus enabling the CAP to pump water to its consumer base) has recently signed an agreement with the EPA to reduce its pollution output in order to remain open until 2044; after that, the CAP’s consumer base may have to pay higher rates in order to keep the canal system pumping water and thus providing power. The CAP’s annual report for 2014 is available here.

The canal cost the state of Arizona $4 billion to construct, and while that is a hefty sum, it’s an investment in the future. Citizens of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and California would be wise to contact their representatives and advocate for the construction of a canal on par with what Arizona has built. And with the five states listed above having a combined budget of $293.6 billion for 2015, it’s fairly evident that they could carve out enough money to build canals of their own (perhaps even conjoin them to create a sort of manmade mega-river, similar to the Colorado.)

If more states that rely on water from the Colorado River (especially those in the southwest) could construct a system of aqueducts on the same level as the CAP, then the next generation of Americans born in that region would need not worry about the source of their fresh water. All it takes is a slice of the state budget and voter initiative on the part of those who call our beautiful deserts home.

Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and his office was unavailable for comment regarding the future of the CAP. To contact the Central Arizona Project with any questions or concerns, call (623) 869-2333 or email them at info@cap-az.com.

Sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_budgets

http://www.cap-az.com/index.php/public/annual-reports

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population

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