CEO discusses the fate of journalism

Though journalism is in a state of uncertainty, one media speaker is of the belief that the public can have a vital role in impacting its future.

Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the Free Press, came to the University on Wednesday to discuss “The Future of Media and What You Can Do About It” with about 40 students and community members in attendance.

Using the idea of a critical juncture, Aaron explained to attendees how social change works. A critical juncture is a period in which old foundations are crumbling under immense pressure due to changes in society.

Aaron has visited different universities over the past year to discuss this topic. He covers topics such as the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect Intellectual Property Act, media policy and the state of journalism. On Wednesday, he also discussed how activism and public media could potentially be a solution to these issues.

“We’ve been taught that our media system is inevitable or natural, and it is just not true,” Aaron said. “The media system we have, good and bad, is a result of political choices, business decisions and often complex policies that have been being made for a really long time in our name but without our consent. I believe that the people need to have a say in these crucial decisions.”

He went on to describe what the Free Press, a nonprofit organization with the aim to reform the media, does in order to achieve its mission. He said, in part, its members work from the inside with lawyers and lobbyists in Washington keeping an eye on the media and technology industries. In addition, they are trying to build up public support online and in communities through education.

“We think that it’s actually in mobilizing the public at critical junctures that is the key to real change,” Aaron said. “The decisions we make in the next couple of years are going to decide whether we have quality journalism, whether the Internet actually meets its potential and ultimately, whether our democracy continues to flourish.”

One of the attendees, Gary Storm, of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, said that students should be exposed to more presentations of this nature in order to raise awareness of these issues.

“It’s just amazing to see that through the efforts of small grassroots organizations and activists, we can bring pressure to the large media conglomerates that really result in change,” Storm said. “That was the most encouraging part of the presentation.”

Martina Baldwin, graduate student, said it was satisfying to see the issues she studies every day brought to light.

“It was definitely a call to action,” Baldwin said. “I think that it is absolutely necessary to get more involved with this cause because we cannot complain enough about it.”