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Alumni return for Pipe Dream's 40th anniversary

 

Pipe Dream panel

By Steve Seepersaud

Being the first to publish a news story online, or taking the time to write a well-reported news article. Offering content for free, or charging readers a subscription fee. These are the dilemmas facing newspapers across the country as they attempt to survive in today's blogosphere.

That was the topic of a Pipe Dream alumni panel discussion that took place during Homecoming weekend, as the newspaper celebrates the 40th anniversary of its changeover from Colonial News. Five Binghamton University graduates with careers in professional media talked to current students about the challenges of their jobs. (Pictured above, left to right, Matt Mendelsohn '85, Ken Brown '85, Gerry Mullany '84 and Melissa Bykofsky '11)

Gerry Mullany '84, deputy editor of nytimes.com, said his publication has chosen to take the time necessary to put a high-quality story together, even if that means getting beaten to the punch by a competing news outfit.

"The strength that the Times has is that it's more interpretative reporting, theoretically smarter reporting," Mullany said. "But it takes more time, and now we're forced to compete with all these other sites that force us to basically get things up on the web quickly."

Ken Brown '85, editor for the Money and Investing section of The Wall Street Journal, said his group runs two blogs, on which online editors are constantly publishing content.

"The issue with speed is that you have to be accurate," Brown said. "No one knows that it's not a Wall Street Journal reporter necessarily, but it's on The Wall Street Journal website, so we have to be careful."

Nicole Flatow '03, assistant director of communications for the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, worked for law newspapers before and after attending law school and said the experiences were very different.

"Beforehand, the emphasis was on providing more in-depth stories for people who were more interested in more information about legal issues than the average newspaper would provide," Flatow said. "After the fact, three years later, I definitely think that there was an emphasis on getting the stories up as fast as possible."

Evan Drellich '09, a Los Angeles-based reporter for MLB.com (the official website for Major League Baseball), said his medium actually allows him to do more in-depth reporting. His print counterparts have to rush to turn in stories on deadline, but Drellich said he is able to stay around the ballpark longer and gather elements to craft a more complete story.

"Because we're not in print, and there really isn't any sense of finality to it, it's really 24/7," Drellich said. "You keep going until whatever hour until you get what you need to get, because your print deadline is whenever you get that thing online."

Matt Mendelsohn '85, writer and photographer, said one positive of the digital world is the increased ease of transmitting information and photos. He said, even as late as 1992, it was incredibly labor-intensive to send photos to a wire service.

"We would bring an entire dark room to a motel," Mendelsohn said. "In the time that it took to send one analog picture to all our newspaper clients -- it would take 27 minutes to move one picture -- my daughter can send a thousand pictures on my iPhone."

Pipe Dream editor-in-chief Melissa Bykofsky '11 was the moderator for the session. Click on the panelists' names above to hear excerpts of their speeches during the panel discussion. 

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Last Updated: 3/26/14