A week after the election, I sat with 10 other wide-eyed journalism junkies for dinner with Radiolab's Robert Krulwich, the apotheosis in the world of storytelling. Though Krulwich's agenda for the night was science, the Modlin classroom modeled a newsroom as we discussed the future of news media.
As a journalism student, I found myself drowning in questions after the election, questions the best in my field couldn't answer. How could reporters have missed so much? How does the industry regain the public's trust? Where is journalism heading? My future in news looked amorphous.
To both my comfort and dismay, Krulwich echoed the concern. "I've never questioned journalism's role like this," he confided. His reporting career began during the Watergate scandal in the golden days of Woodward and Bernstein and watchdog journalism. Now, he said, his Radiolab interns are asking whether the world still needs journalists.
"Do you do it because you want an audience, or because you feel you have to, almost out of desperation?" he asked. We chuckled. Desperation, of course.
We mulled over possible solutions to the shattered relationship between journalists and the public we serve. I proposed investing more in local journalism. Krulwich suggested exploring more varied methods of storytelling. The farther we treaded, the more questions we had. We all chose journalism because we loved asking questions, but it was challenging. There was no formula to follow. There was no single answer to find.
After dessert, events staff ushered Krulwich to Camp Concert Hall for a sound check, leaving the rest of us to ponder the conversation he had stirred. I looked around the table at my peers, many of them colleagues of mine at The Collegian, and saw the same inquisitive gears turning in their minds.