Former international journalist and now Asia Society Executive Vice-president Tom Nagorski talks about the changing face of global journalism in the age of social media
Asia Society’s Executive Vice-President Tom Nagorski talks about the dynamic field of journalism
Recently in the country for the Asia 21 Young Leaders’ Summit—the first time that the event has been hosted by the Philippines—Tom Nagorski is no stranger to either the region or the fields of news and public affairs.
Currently the executive vice-president of Asia Society, Nagorski spent the better part of three decades working as a journalist. Prior to his present stint, he was the managing editor for international coverage at ABC News in the United States. He also served as the network’s foreign editor for its flagship programme World News Tonight, and also spent time as a field reporter and producer in Russia, Germany, and Thailand.
An eight-time Emmy awardee and the recipient of the Dupont Award for excellence in international coverage, Nagorski is also the author of Miracles on the Water: The Heroic Survivors of a World War II U-boat Attack. He is, at present, a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the Advisory Board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and a programme advisor to the Brooklyn Historical Society. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two children.
For you, as a former journalist, how has the advent of the internet and social media changed the industry, and how do you see it evolving over time?
For a while, social media was a tool that journalists could use to have more avenues for information, especially for big breaking stories.
Take the example of a natural disaster. Many young people today will never understand how 20 years ago, you would know what was going on [immediately] after a typhoon like Haiyan or an earthquake only if you go there yourself or call people on the phone [long-distance] to get reports and everything else.
[Social media] is a good thing [in such cases] as both journalists and the public can receive information on the crisis, know the needs of the people affected, and know how to get there or how to respond in the blink of an eye.
So, it becomes a matter of immediacy or urgency?
It’s just a [more rapid] flow of information.
I was the managing editor for international coverage at ABC when the horrible tsunami and nuclear disaster hit Fukushima in Japan. It took us a long time to get reporters on the ground for what was one of the biggest stories at the time. But, in terms of information, we had a huge amount of information immediately.
In that respect, social media is a great tool for journalists, a great way to inform the public, and I would like to say that [in the case of natural disasters] you don’t usually find people making up things.
But, of course, outside of these tragedies, social media in journalism can be a different thing all together?
Now, when you get into a whole range of other topics—especially politics—it’s a totally different animal.
Some people who are using it in clever ways, some in informative ways. But, most of the time, it becomes this giant cesspool of disinformation—and I don’t quite know how to put this genie back into the bottle.
The one silver lining I see—and this is good for journalists—is that I think serious consumers of information understand the value of good journalists and equally good journalism. The idea that there is a trusted source of information has become a commodity that isn’t so normal anymore, to the extent that it gives journalism a little more value than it used to have. That would be a good thing—but I’m not sure if we’ve seen it yet.
The voice of experience Tom Nagorski addresses delegates at the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit