Students filed into the Biomedical & Physical Sciences Building from 7-9:15 p.m. Tues. night for a press conference covering the automotive industry from the view of a professional journalist.
Sharon Carty of the Huffington Post (left) and Mike Ramsey of the Wall Street Journal took student questions for over two hours, beginning with Ramsey explaining to the attendees why the European economy affects the auto industry.
“Cars are very expensive-and they’re even more expensive if Europe than they are in the United States. Not only that, but gas is three times as expensive in Europe as it is here. So people are not buying cars. Compound that to the fact that Europe used to be a humongous market and now it has all of these auto plants, they are losing money hand over fist. It was hard to make money there even when times were good. Now ironically the United States is keeping all of these companies afloat.”
Shortly after questions became more focused on the world of journalism.
“Newspapers are dying,” Carty said. “The industry is in an insane amount of flux right now and has been for a long time. the worst part of newspapers dying is, and I’m paraphrasing, is not that they’re dying, it’s that they are committing suicide.”
Ramsey also knows that journalism is evolving, but not becoming a lost art.
“Newspapers themselves and the way I grew up with them are not going to exist that same way in 20-25 years. But there will be something. It’s not like the appetite for news and content has disappeared. I think we’re in the back half of the massive transition. I think the first half was the plummeting death and ‘I don’t know what to do’ and now papers are starting to come with the grips with the fact that they are going to have to start charging for content, that they are going to take a huge hit in readership and circulation at first, and that they are going to rationalize their business to a point where they can make it work.”
With the world moving toward higher mobile capabilities, journalists such as Carty and Ramsey have had to adapt.
“The fact that you can work from anywhere from your phone is a blessing and a curse,” Carty said. “You can work from home. You go to a thing and come home and file it, but then you’re always tethered to work. You’re always checking it and it’s hard to find that good balance where you’re totally checked out. I envy people who get to leave work, close their office door, walk away from their cubicle and just be done for the day because that’s not my life.”
But because professional journalists also make mistakes, Ramsey also spoke about about how to learn from it.
“You will never learn so much from this until you go out to a crime scene and you’re like, ‘I wrote down Sgt. Block, but I didn’t ask Sgt. Block’s first name and now I don’t have the attribution for this story. And he’s the only person I can get and it’s 10 o’clock at night I’m screwed.’ That’s a lesson you’ll never forget. Next time you go, you’re getting Sgt. Block’s first name. And you’re going to make sure you spelled it right. It’s one thing to be able to get sources and find out about stuff, but if it’s not right, then forget it.”
Being accurate and honest was a topic that applied to everyone in the room.
“Your integrity in this business is everything,” Ramsey said. “When you screw something up, there is absolutely nothing that makes you feel more horrible as a journalist than making a mistake. We don’t go out there intentionally making mistakes. But there’s also more liberating than going up to your editor and say, ‘I screwed this up and here’s how I screwed it up…I didn’t check the spelling and I’m an idiot and I’m sorry, you need to correct this.’”
But it was Carty that shared her biggest challenge in beginning her career.
“I was insanely shy… the fact that I got into a business that required me to talk to people was kind of crazy, given my inability to talk to people at the time,” Carty said. “I was very good at covering meetings, just sitting in the back and taking notes and that sort of thing, but if I had to go interview people it would take me awhile to warm up. I’d be the reporter with a notebook just walking around the perimeter of the room. That was a big hurdle for me…but the more I did it the more I was able to get over it.”
But neith Carty or Ramsey have forgotten why they love their jobs to this day.
“You can live in a normal suburban neighborhood and have access to all of these people who change the world on a daily basis,” Carty said. “It’s really cool.”
SAMANTHA VANHOEF / THE UPSTART