Radio Show: Jack Fuller On ‘What is Happening to the News’

My radio show guest this week on June 16 will be Jack Fuller, right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, former Tribune Publishing Co. president and author of the insightful book, What is Happening to the News. In answering that question, the veteran newsman reaches deep into psychology and other social studies to suggest how news is changing because the audience is changing.

Click here to listen to the show live worldwide at noon (EDT) on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network founded by myJack Fuller co-host, Scott Draughon. The one-hour show is available shortly after its completion by archive.The interview begins after we summarize Washington-related national news. This week's topics will include Republican Pesidential debate in New Hampshire this week and the 475-page report the FCC issued June 9 on “Information Needs of Communities."

Another topic is the roundtable I attended June 13 organized by the Richard Nixon Foundation to convene top Justice Department executives from the 1960s and early 1970s instrumental in the nation's successful fight against the Mafia. They described how presidential-congressional leadership broke the power of the Mafia in the United States, a topic I covered closely as a newspaper reporter and later as law clerk to a Boston federal judge presided over racketeering charges against New England's Mafia leadership.

Fuller, a former attorney at the Justice Department during the early 1970s, introduces his book’s approach as follows: Across America, newspapers that have defined their cities for over a century are rapidly failing, their circulations plummeting even as opinion-soaked Web outlets like the Huffington Post thrive. Meanwhile, nightly news programs shock viewers with stories of horrific crime and celebrity scandal.  Is it any wonder that young people are turning away from the news entirely, trusting comedians like Jon Stewart as their primary source of information on current events?  A new factor, Fuller says, is that lots of the messages, whether marketing or personal, are addressed to us directly by Jack Fuller Book covername. “The advertising messages that we get today are at least as personal as the personal messages we get.” He says this process creates significant new challenges for the human brain.

Fuller is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who spent nearly forty years working in newspapers, serving as editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and as president of the Tribune Publishing Company. He is the author of seven novels, as well as News Values: Ideas for an Information Age. Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center awarded his latest book its 2011 Goldsmith Prize as the trade book that best improves democratic governance by examining the intersection between the media, politics and public policy. Details on the book are available via its publisher and

This month, business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and I are celebrating our fifth year of hosting the weekly public affairs shows together via an innovative format he described in his own book, The Art of the Business Radio Show. Your participation is welcome, with questions or comments sent via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone at: 866-685-7469.  Listener advisory: Mac listeners need “Parallels.”

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Below are significant articles on legal reform and related political, security and media factors. The articles, including a strong representation from independent blogs and other media, contain a sample of news. See the full article by cvisting the home page, and visiting News Reports.

June 13

Washington Post, Activists cry foul over FBI probe, Peter Wallsten, June 13, 2011.  FBI agents took box after box of address books, family calendars, artwork and personal letters in their 10-hour raid in September of the century-old house shared by Stephanie Weiner and her husband. The agents seemed keenly interested in Weiner’s home-based business, the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand, which sells silkscreened infant bodysuits and other clothes with socialist slogans, phrases like “Help Wanted: Revolutionaries.” The probe — involving subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall — has triggered a high-powered protest against the Department of Justice and, in the process, could create some political discomfort for President Obama with his union supporters as he gears up for his reelection campaign.

June 12

New York Times,The Obama Administration's "Shadow" Internet, James Glanz and John Markoff, June 12, 2011. The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy "shadow" Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks. The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype "Internet in a suitcase."  Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.

June 11

Salon / Unclaimed Territory, In a pure coincidence, Gaddafi impeded U.S. oil interests before the war, Glenn Greenwald, June 11, 2011. When the war in Libya began, the U.S. government convinced a large number of war supporters that we were there to achieve the very limited goal of creating a no-fly zone in Benghazi to protect civilians from air attacks, while President Obama specifically vowed that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake." This no-fly zone was created in the first week, yet now, almost three months later, the war drags on without any end in sight, and NATO is no longer even hiding what has long been obvious: that its real goal is exactly the one Obama vowed would not be pursued -- regime change through the use of military force.  We're in Libya to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power and replace him with a regime that we like better, i.e., one that is more accommodating to the interests of the West.  That's not even a debatable proposition at this point.

June 10

Washington Post, Conflict in Libya: U.S. oil companies sit on sidelines as Gaddafi maintains hold, Steven Mufson, June 10, 2011. Even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Moammar Gaddafi had soured. The Libyan leader demanded tough contract terms.


Early Commentaries About What is Happening to the News

“The crisis in journalism is a hot topic for media scholars, and new books analyzing the situation are appearing monthly. Many cover familiar ground—the growth of the Internet, loss of advertising revenue, increasing corporate ownership, and changed reading behavior. Fuller, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, takes a different tack and explores how recent discoveries in neuroscience explain why traditional professional journalism no longer meets the needs of contemporary audiences. He argues that in an information-rich environment, the human brain will be attracted to ‘emotionally significant stimuli,’ or to sensational news rather than objective coverage. He recommends a complete rethinking of the objectivity standards and the development of a new rhetoric for news. VERDICT: Fuller’s advocacy of both a redefinition of news and a more emotionally rich approach to its coverage will be controversial for many. Journalists and communication scholars trying to understand what is happening to news will want to read this book.”-- Library Journal

“This is one of the most interesting, innovative, and important new books on journalism in ten years, and it could not come at a better time for practicing journalists, the new cadre of citizen journalists in development, and the public affairs community as a whole. It will not only serve as a guide to journalists as the author intends, but also as an important guide for the general public, now faced with the need to sort through the messages that bombard them every day. “-- Bill Kovach, Founding Chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists

“A masterful and stunning piece of work. In attempting to explain once and for all (scores have tried) the causes and context of the decline and fall of organized journalism, Jack Fuller ranges out from the usual terrain across the sciences, the humanities, and even the arts. He synthesizes a gardener's delight of startling, up-to-date scientific and medical findings about how the brain works with diverse branches of philosophy, the scholarship of storytelling, the self-immolation of the news business, the emergence of the digital age, and more. And he does so authoritatively and persuasively.”-- Michael Janeway, Columbia University School of Journalism

“There is no more important or exciting thinker about journalism than Jack Fuller. For anyone who cares about the future of news, What is Happening to News arrives just in time. While the explosion in media choices is well documented, the ways in which the human brain is responding have been little noticed. Using  the same reporting skill that earlier earned him a Pulitzer Prize, Fuller turns to neuroscience to provide a fascinating explanation for why news of conflict or celebrity, for instance, crowds out more sophisticated or subtle dispatches. The stakes are enormous, not only for journalists struggling to recapture dwindling audiences, but for audiences struggling to hold onto quality journalism.”-- Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor, Chicago Tribune

“The revolution in media, it turns out, is bigger than the Web—it’s also going on inside our heads. Jack Fuller’s book, based on modern neuroscience and his own erudition, challenges centuries-old assumptions about the ways our brains process news. The implications for the media (and many other things) are vast.”-- John S. Carroll, former editor, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun