Veteran broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff spoke at Northwestern last week, expressing concern for the direction journalism has been taking and offering foresight for the future of the business.
“Our democracy has no value unless we have a free press,” she said April 21 at the annual Newton and Josephine Minow Lecture in Communications.
“If you care about democracy, then you care about free press, and you care about being well-informed.”
However, according to Woodruff, cutbacks in newsgathering budgets are compromising the quality of news programs. What she found most appalling was the absence of foreign reporting.
“In September of 2001, the broadcast networks had one-third as many foreign correspondents as they had 20 years earlier. And not one of them had a correspondent in a Muslim country.”
When asked if she thought international coverage would improve with time, Woodruff said the outlook remains dismal.
“I don’t think it’s going to change because there hasn’t been an outcry from the American people,” she said. “If the American people don’t demand more of this kind of coverage, there’s no incentive for news organizations to cover it.”
She addressed the students in the audience, calling for the new generation of journalists to become a force for change.
“You can be a force to return to higher quality. And I urge all of you who are moving toward a career in journalism to do just that -- to keep your standards high.”
Before Woodruff took the stage, an award was presented to one of those future journalists in the Medill School of Journalism. Broadcast senior Danielle Carlson was awarded the prestigious Josephine B. and Newton N. Minow Prize in Communications. She appeared to accept her award via live feed from South Africa, where she is studying abroad. Her brother and mother were also in the audience.
“I especially love the fact that you’ve partnered this up with recognizing a young journalist like Danielle,” Woodruff said of the program. “It’s such a thrill for me to see her participate.”
Woodruff joined CNN in 1993, where she anchors the weekday “Judy Woodruff’s Inside Politics.” She also anchors breaking news and developing stories, which have included the network’s award-winning coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks and 2004 presidential election. For 10 years she was chief Washington correspondent for the Public Broadcasting System’s “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.”