On March 22, New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter delivered the address of the 30th annual Freedom of Information Congress, a lecture series devoted to issues of the First Amendment. The Marcus Orr Center co-sponsored the event with the Society of Professional Journalists, the Department of Journalism, and Student Event Allocation Funds.
Mr. Stelter gave an engaging, informal talk, one full of enthusiasm and insights. He told his own story: he started blogging when he was eleven years old, in his parents' basement, because he was such a fan of R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series of children's books. That endeavor actually laid the foundation for his career, and it lent the heart of his advice to aspiring journalists. He urged them that in this new age of social media and the internet, a journalist can follow his or her own passions, and thus make themselves an indispensable expert to a niche market.
Mr. Stelter kept blogging about new topics as his interests matured. While a college student at Towson University, he started the blog TVNewser, which was soon read by media industry insiders, as well as countless fans of his scoops and analysis. While only twenty-one years old, he was hired by the New York Times, a signal of a new era for the "Grey Lady," as it sought to incorporate younger voices in today's new media world.
Mr. Stelter kept his formal remarks short and took a wide array of questions from the audience at the University Center, which numbered over 200 people. In contrast to the gloom-and-doom forecasts of most people in the newspaper business, Stelter reflected some optimism about the industry, and especially about the fast and wide flow of information through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and newspaper websites. He noted how tablets will soon revamp the way that people consume digital news.
Joe Hayden, Associate Director of the Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities, provided opening remarks, and Dean Richard Ranta of the College of Communication and Fine Arts introduced the speaker. Student Chris Whitten, president of the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, emceed the affair.