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CBS producer Rick Kaplan speaks on media fracture and the future of young journalists

Rick Kaplan, executive producer of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and University alum, spoke to students on the topic of change in not only broadcast news and advertising, but also media in general.

The event was sponsored by the department of advertising. Jan Slater, department of advertising head, said Kaplan has been coming to the University for 17 years. His goal with these speeches is to educate and inform, with an emphasis towards journalism and advertising students.

Kaplan’s topic changes every year, Slater added. Last year’s topic was about President Obama’s first 100 days in office.

“In general, his topic is always how to better prepare the students for what the real world will be like,” she said. “He’s living it everyday, and he sees all the changes that are happening in his industry.”

This year’s talk was called “The Character and Shape of Today’s News Coverage.” Kaplan’s main focus was on the trends in the news and advertising industry over the years.

“There were 24 million people watching news on a given day last year,” Kaplan said. “Thirty years ago, it was over 100 million.”

Kaplan cited fragmentation, or the ability to get news from hundreds of different sources, as the main culprit of declining viewership, declining revenue and struggling news channels.

CNN, Kaplan said, is an example of a news organization that has been “in a freefall,” with some of their shows losing over 70 percent of their viewers. Kaplan also pointed out business channel CNBC, which made a profit of over 700 million dollars from a viewership of around 200,000 people.

In the talk, Kaplan spoke about the relation between declining news viewership and changes in the advertising industry. If no one is watching the news, advertisers will also struggle to generate revenue. He added that advances in technology, such as in digital video recorders, or DVRs, have altered how advertisers intend to convey products to the public.

“How can you get my message out without the audience fast forwarding it?” Kaplan said.

Colby Roate, sophomore in Media, said she sees these changes as opportunities to adapt, as well as a challenge for her forthcoming career in advertising.

“We’re going to find new ways to reach our audiences and get out of this situation,” she said.

Professor Brian Johnson, department of journalism head, said he sees a promising outlook for journalists.

“The changes in the media are really to the benefit of journalists. As the industry fractured, more opportunities opened up for journalists,” Johnson said. “There might be more job searching, but the need for journalists will only increase.”

The best advice for young journalists, Kaplan added, is to “be self sufficient.”

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