Adviser Update Adviser Update Spring 2017 | Page 12

N E W S M AT TE R S Silicon Valley and Journalism By Richard J. Levine S ocial media and technology companies, most especially Facebook, pose an existential threat to the independence and quality of American journalism. Richard J. Levine Richard J. Levine is president of the board of directors of the Dow Jones News Fund, Inc. Since joining Dow Jones & Co. in 1966, he has served as vice president for news and staff development, executive editor of Dow Jones Newswires, vice president of information services, editorial director of electronic publishing and Washington correspondent and columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He holds a B.S. from Cornell University and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Email: richard. That is the glum conclusion one draws from a new research report published by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism.” It was authored by Emily Bell, the center’s respected director, and Taylor Owen, EMILY BELL an assistant professor of digital media at the University of British Columbia. Established in 2010, the Tow Center seeks to train journalists for leadership roles in the digital age and to serve as a hub of research and development. Toward that end, the center is embarked on a multi-year project on the relationship between journalism and social media platforms. While the center released preliminary findings last June, The Platform Press is the most comprehensive report to date on its research in this critical area. The report’s executive summary proclaims: “The influence of social media platforms and technology companies is having a greater effect on American journalism than even the shift from print to digital. There is a rapid takeover of traditional publishers’ roles by companies including Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Twitter that shows no signs of slowing, and which raises serious questions over how the cost of journalism will be supported. These companies have evolved beyond their role as distribution channels, and now control what audiences see and who gets paid for their attention, and even what format and type of journalism flourishes.” Noting that in the past 20 years, journalism has been buffeted by digital communications, the social web and most recently the dominance of mobile devices, the report asserts that with the rise of smartphones, large technology companies have come to dominate “the markets for attention and advertising,” forcing news organizations “to rethink their processes and structures.” According to the Tow Center: “No newsroom is unaffected by the gravitational force of big technology companies. Decisions made by Facebook, Google and others now dictate strategy for all news organizations, but especially those with advertising-based models….Publishers remain confused or undecided about how best to leverage relationships with technology companies. A growing number of news organizations see investing in social platforms as the only prospect for a sustainable future.” In the view of the researchers, “The