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Brad Kalbfeld, author of the Associated Press Broadcast Style Book and an Associated Press journalist for 31 years, visited our classroom on April 5 to talk about the evolution of journalism.

Kalbfeld started discussion by presenting the “laptop” that he first started with when he was a reporter overseas in 1982. The laptop was actually a large and bulky typewriter, which everyone considered convenient back in the 80s. The technologies journalists used in the past were heavy, expensive and slow — yet a very limited group of people had access to them as compared to today.

We now have smartphones and laptops at our fingertips, which makes it possible for anyone to have access to information. The ability to instantly connect with anyone around the world has drastically changed the realm of journalism.

During the “analogue world,” news information that readers and viewers received were getting filtered based on what reporters, copy editors, section editors and/or show producers and managing editors wanted to focus on reporting. Stories were filtered by at least four different people before they hit newspapers or television stations, and it was up to at least four different people to decide whether certain stories were deemed as important enough to present to the public.

Today, however, any “Joe Six-Pack,” as Kalbfeld likes to call an average person, has the ability to get whatever he or she wants to the public without other people’s approval. Joe Six-Pack is important in our society because he can make a video of a rollerskating squirrel that may interest a significant amount of people — Joe Six-Pack has therefore forced news organizations to get input from the audience about what is important to them. Nowadays, what matters most is user-participation and feedback from readers and/or viewers.

Readers how have the power,” Kalbfeld said. “The people in the newsroom cannot ignore what readers want, and now readers are now empowered with the information of what’s available.”

What’s great about user-participation is that there is now a range of choices in what stories are made available. Judgements were made by people who were very similar in the past, but because the audience is now in control of which types of news stories are published, news is now very diverse.

“A citizen journalist brings a tremendous advantage in our ability to consume news,” Kalbfeld said. “That advantage is their criticism.”

Although citizen journalists are helpful in bringing light to certain stories that news organizations would usually ignore, Kalbfeld noted that citizen journalists fail to understand that cameras can lie. Therefore, he encourages student journalists and the general public to carefully examine where their news is coming from. Credible sites have a lot of filters that provide a lot of reliable information, according to Kaldfeld.

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