Register publisher Rick Green talks future of newspapers, quality journalism

Oscar Alvarez

Rick Green, publisher of the Des Moines Register, emphasized Iowa’s dependence on news and the need for quality news in his speech for the Chamberlin Lecture on Sept. 16 in the Memorial Union.

The motto of the Des Moines Register — “We deliver the news Iowa depends upon” — was one of the many points Green drove home as he spoke to a room full of both experienced and aspiring journalists.

Green spoke about the future of journalism, what others outside of journalism think newspapers’ future is and what he believes will be the bright future of journalism. Green spoke about how it seems as if journalism is declining at the moment and will eventually be extinct.

“It’s easy to use the word ‘victims’ whenever you start talking a little bit about where journalism is, newspapers in particular,” Green said.

Even with the reality of the moment in mind, Green said he still fights for his belief that journalism has a bright future by stating five important trends that are seen in news organizations.

Green’s first reason was that journalists are not reluctant to embrace change.

“Publishers have had to make changes in their game. New roles were needed, and now we’re talking in a different language in our advertising and our marketing staffs.”

Next, Green said embracing the ability to tell stories in new ways via social media and other online platforms is another important step.

“I can tell you that video is just this new, powerful storytelling media and we’ve got to deliver it,” Green said.

The third trend was creating new partnerships and relationships, sometimes with competitors. He mentioned the Des Moines Register will partner with KCCI broadcast station and bring together Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst, both U.S Senate candidates, to debate.

Reason four was that there is a newfound passion for innovation. Green feels confident in the fourth step because the Des Moines Register is doing a five-day series next week focusing on a farm family in Iowa dealing with aging and climate change.

The fifth and final trend that makes Green believe papers will not only survive but also thrive was that newspapers remain relevant to people’s lives.

“Relevance is the part of what it is that we do,” Green said. “In a time when news consumption and media consumption is soaring, there are more people consuming more news and more information from multiple news sites than ever before.”

After Green’s speech, there was a question and answer session where members of the audience asked questions pertaining to topics that Green didn’t hit upon during his lecture.

Many of the questions revolved around the importance of ethics in the newsroom. Green reiterated that ethics is non-negotiable and must always be in the newsroom.

Louis Jordan, senior in journalism and mass communication, attended the lecture and said he left believing there is a bright future ahead of him in his career.

“I agree with him 100 percent,” Jordan said. “I find journalism to be very adaptable. I think it’s very adaptable with whatever the future holds with the progress we’re always making with technology.”

To finish his speech, Green told a story about how when he was driving home listening to NPR and he tuned in to an interview with David Greenway.

In his interview, Greenway was talking about the newspaper industry, “the glory days” and what journalism used to be. Green admitted that Greenway’s points were depressing him because he has to tell everybody that the future of journalism is indeed bright but also has to reflect that it simply is not what it used to be.

Green’s mood changed when the host of the NPR broadcast told the audience that the conversation can continue to be followed online, via Facebook and other types of social media.

“The conversation is going to continue, but just in a different platform,” Green said. “There is still a place, and there will be a longstanding place for the print edition.”

“I refuse to believe and lament the demise of this great industry,” Green said, despite the mentioned changes in the industry. “I do.”