A voice raised for journalism

AKM Moinuddin
Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Professor Sherry Ricchiardi. Photo: Dhaka Courier


Professor Sherry Ricchiardi is an international journalist and media development specialist based in Washington, D.C. She has conducted media training in developing countries throughout the world for the International Center for Journalists and as part of the U.S. Department of State’s speaker program. Dhaka Courier Correspondent AKM Moinuddin talked to her on future of journalism during her recent visit to Dhaka


Newspapers in this digital age have changed dramatically from their roots. Newspapers, however, are “not dying” so soon but changing their format, Professor Ricchiardi believes. “I don’t think newspapers are dying. Newspapers are changing… the format is changing.”


Professor Ricchiardi, an award-winning journalist and Prof Emeritus at the Indiana University School of Journalism, however, said the quality of journalism may be going down as truth, accuracy and fairness — all those things they cherish are “at risk sometimes”.


“You know we’re seeing more on conspiracy theories, rumors and fake news. That’s a real challenge for journalists. How do I know it’s true when I see it on twitter or on Facebook. I think that’s going to be a real challenge for us,” she explained the situation when journalists think globally, report locally, tell stories that change the world.


Talking about changes and future challenges, Professor Ricchiardi who has worked with journalists in 35 countries, said internet has been a powerful tool and the biggest change media face is the social media.


“It has lots of advantages for us but it has lots of challenges, too. I think journalists all over the world are concerned that the social media and the internet…because anybody can post anything anytime,” she said laying emphasis on the checks and balances that needed for verification and attribution.


On positive aspects of the changes, the winner of National Press Club awards for reporting on international issues for American Journalism Review, said, “We’re connected now. We’re one voice in the world. If something happens in Bangladesh the whole world knows immediately. So, the advantages are wonderful.”


Explaining further on how newspapers are surviving, Professor Ricchiardi said newspapers are definitely changing how they produce information and major newspapers in America and in Bangladesh have strong online presence.


Asked whether media outlets are ready to deal with the changes, Professor Ricchiardi said media outlets have to do business in their own way. “We’re trying very hard to figure out business models with the changes that are happening. We’re looking for new business models.”


This is a real issue that how do they (media outlets) stay solvent and continue making money and more money, she said adding that “New York Times, Washington Post and several others are making money. They’ve come up with business models that are working.”


Professor Ricchiardi mentioned that all have to keep working and looking at what is the next change that might be coming. “I’ve the faith on the fact that we’ll survive, perhaps in the different format, but newspapers are not going away.”


Responding to a question, Professor Ricchiardi said she is very optimistic about the future of journalism. “I believe the internet, social media, new media, whatever you want to call it, have given us a great power, greater than ever we had in our lifetimes.”


She, however, laid emphasis on using these tools (social media) responsibly. “How we use these that count. If we’re fallen to the trap of just reporting fake news and conspiracy theories then we aren’t journalists. But I’m very optimistic about the future of journalism.”


Talking about the young people who are studying journalism now, Professor Ricchiardi said, “Journalism students I met (in Bangladesh) are amazing. They’re curious. They asked lot of questions and good questions. I’ve a good feeling about the next generation journalists.”


She said journalists are doing a great job in Bangladesh but they are going to face new challenges like covering violent extremism, militarism, radicalism and terrorism have come up. “We’ve to do a better job in educating our younger journalists.”


On her overall assessment about Bangladeshi journalism, Professor Ricchiardi said, “I’m very impressed with Bangladeshi journalists. They’re getting so much interest in learning new skills. They’re doing pretty well but they want to do it in a better way.”


Asked to comment on US President Donald Trump’s view of journalists, Professor Ricchiardi smiled and said, “Absolutely not. No, we aren’t the most dishonest people on earth. We’re the truth seekers. We don’t serve our governments rather we serve people. I’m very proud of my profession.”


All over the world, Professor Ricchiardi said, she feels like an international journalist, not just an American journalist. “So, we aren’t dishonest people, we make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes.”


Appreciating investigative reporting of a few Bangladeshi media outlets, Professor Ricchiardi said, “You can bring economic changes, political changes and social changes with your reporting by proving something is wrong, by proving that there’s corruption, by proving that there is marginalised groups and human rights issues.”


She said media outlets have to have the talents, time and money as investigative reporting takes higher level of reporting, more time, and it can cost more money.


On women’s participation in top media posts, she said, “I tell them (women), do great journalism and they have to notice you.”


On January 30, she conducted a day-long workshop on media coverage of countering violent extremism for Bangladeshi journalists working in this field to help understand journalists the challenges posed by violent extremism in Bangladesh and elsewhere and effective coverage of it by media.

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