The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, March 4, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Wall Street Journal editor sees ‘strong future’ for journalism

Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, gives a moving speech on the importance of business journalism to current students as a part of the Nelson Benton Lecture Series.
Gerard Baker, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, gives a moving speech on the importance of business journalism to current students as a part of the Nelson Benton Lecture Series.

Baker, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, spoke in Carroll Hall Monday night as the guest lecturer for the 2014 Nelson Benton Lecture.

“Business journalism faces a fundamental and existential crisis like all journalists — the model of business journalism has been fundamentally destroyed,” he said.

The lecture series was started in 1991 by Joe Benton, Nelson Benton’s only son, in honor of his father’s extensive career as a CBS News correspondent.

Susan King, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, introduced Baker.

“Nelson Benton would have loved that Gerard is doing this, because Baker is proof that a TV guy can run a news organization, and even if you move from your home turf where you are most comfortable, you never lose your accent,” King said.

Baker focused his lecture on the future of journalism — a question that has dominated the minds of those interested in the field in the midst of the digital revolution in the industry.

“Despite what some of you may have read, I believe business journalism has a very strong future, but I think it will be different than what we have seen over the past 100 years or so,” he said.

In the past 25 years, business journalism has grown in relevance, Baker said.

“The need to understand financial assets has become extremely important for everyone everyone with a pension, everyone with a job who needs to understand where their investments are going,” he said.

With the rise of social media, the need for companies to advertise in publications has fallen drastically along with news organizations’ revenue, he said.

“How do we square this circle? We believe there is a demand for business journalism, and instead of financing it through advertising, it can be financed directly by people who want to consume business journalism — that is the subscriber base,” Baker said.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to charge readers for digital access to business journalism in 1996, Baker said.

“I can’t pretend we are replacing all the revenue lost, but I firmly believe that this is the way in which we can grow and continue to generate the necessary revenue to sustain quality business journalism,” he said.

When the panel opened up to questions, public policy department chairman Dan Gitterman asked Baker what he looked for in the hiring process.

“I think the defining and unifying feature is curiosity and the desire to learn more about the world and a refusal to accept what you are told,” Baker responded.

Sophomore Joy Liburd said she found it interesting that people spend money on business journalism.

“I think the most interesting thing was that people actually pay for the subscription, because our generation is very used to free downloads ... I found it really surprising people were willing to pay for specifically business journalism.”

university@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.