John Cochran, Owen Ullman and Barbara Cochran

Center Collaborates on Workshop on the Responsibility of the Media and Public during Major Changes in the Industry

It is a time of unprecedented challenges and transformation in the media industry, and both the journalists and their audiences should reconsider their roles and responsibilities in this new
communication era, Romanian and American experts said in a two-day workshop in Bucharest in early May.

“No one has the definitive answer to the question: How are media going to look in 10 years or even in five years,” Dr. Paul Dobrescu, rector of the National School of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA) in Bucharest, told to 45 journalists, journalism educators and students in the workshop.

Dobrescu said that the workshop discussion should at least illustrate how some of the experts were thinking about the question.

Barbara Cochran, president emeritus of Radio Television Digital News Association, and Owen Ullmann, deputy managing editor of USA Today, two of the U.S. team participants, said the media in the U.S. are in a period of stress.

“We are going to have fewer papers and fewer editors” in the future, Ullmann said.

Cochran said television and radio “need to figure out how to harness digital media if they want to survive.”

Dr. Remus Pricopie, dean of the College of Communication and Public Relations, in his comments described how the lack of professionalism has negatively affected some health communication campaigns in Romania.

“Hopefully our students will bring more expertise in communication related jobs, once they graduate, and will demonstrate that this is not a field for amateurs who want political gains.”

The workshop was a collaboration between the Center for Research in Communication at SNSPA and the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia.

The Cox Center is the international outreach arm of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at Georgia.

The Center for Research in Communication was created after Dr. Nicoleta Corbu, currently executive director of unit, spent nine months in the Cox Center in 2008 and 2009 as a Fulbright scholar.

Drs. Paul Dobrescu and Alina Bargaoanu of SNSPA also had been guests of the Cox Center in the past.

Remus Pricopie, Paul Dobrescu and Lee B. Becker

"It is an honor to be collaborating with the National School of Political and Administrative Studies,” Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, said on May 11, the first day of the workshop.

The title of the workshop was Media Changes, Public Information, and Public Responsibility.

In his comments, Dr. Becker said the evidence in the U.S. is starting to build that “revenue from advertising or subscriptions will not cover the costs of conventional journalism, so journalism will have to change.”

In a presentation during the second day of the workshop, Cochran talked about the changing characteristics of the broadcast newsrooms in the U.S.

“Twenty years ago, the anchors of the major television programs in the United States were all men,” she said, adding that in recent years the situation has changed, with TV personalities such as Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer being prime-time anchors.

“Newspapers in the United States have been affected by the economic crisis, but many of them still do a good job in keeping the public aware of abuses or corruption through valuable investigative journalism,” Ullmann said in a presentation on the role of the media in making the government transparent and accountable.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, Associate Director of the Cox Center.

“A couple of years ago, when the economic crisis has started to hit the media markets, I thought that credible and responsible media organizations will survive, and the low quality ones will disappear,” Dr. Tudor Vlad, associate director of the Cox Center, said. “Obviously, I was wrong.”

Mircea Toma, director of the agency for media monitoring Active Watch, presented a documentary on the abuses on Romanian media and journalists in 2009.

“The environment is not favorable for those journalists who want to be independent and to observe high ethic standards,” Toma told the audience.

In the last sessions of the workshop, Covering American Presidents, Barbara Cochran, Owen Ullmann and John Cochran, ABC senior correspondent, shared with the public their experiences as White House correspondents during the terms of 10 U.S. presidents.

One member of the audience asked John Cochran, who covered presidents going back to President Eisenhower, who were the best and the worst US presidents.

"George W. Bush's presidency ended in what seems now to be a failed presidency," John Cochran said. "The Iraq war is considered a mistake. The economy was in bad shape when he left."

Cochran said that President George W. Bush always said he would let history make the judgments.

"It could well be that 10, 20 years, 30 years from now historians will say the Iraq war was a good idea," John Cochran said. "So we'll see. It's too early."