News Sources

News sources … newspapers, TV — and barbershop

By Eric Rineer
J Alumni News staff

Former Nebraska football player Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers gave several media experts some surprise advice during a recent news conference at the Nebraska Union: Check your local barbershop as a news source.

Rodgers, college football’s 1972 Heisman trophy winner, was one of four panelists at a discussion held April 14 at the Union Ballroom. The forum, titled Media at the Millennium, was part of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ annual Journalism Days event from April 10-15.

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today and The Freedom Forum, made a guest appearance at the event, which showcased panelists who discussed the performance of the media and the future of the newspaper industry.

When asked by Charles Overby, the chairman of The Freedom Forum, where he typically got his daily news, Rodgers mentioned CNN, the local newspaper and the Internet.

“And I check the barbershop,” said Rodgers, drawing a laugh from the audience.
Rodgers was one of four local public figures who answered questions about the media from Overby, who served as moderator.

Jodi Rave, an American Indian reporter from the Lincoln Journal Star, Ben Nelson, former Nebraska governor, and Will Norton Jr., dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, were the other panelists.

Chuckling after hearing Rodgers’ comment, Norton was next in line for the same question. The journalism dean, who is balding, quickly responded: “If I were to get my news in a barbershop, I wouldn’t have much news.”

Norton went on to say what news sources he does use. On his list were the New York Times, The Economist and the Lincoln Journal Star.

During the discussion, panelists were asked for their perspectives on news coverage in Lincoln. Overby picked up a copy of that day’s Daily Nebraskan, which had a front-page story about a Nebraska football player recently put on probation for a misdemeanor crime.

Overby asked Rodgers, who played for Nebraska from 1970-72, if he felt the story belonged on the front page.

“If Shevin Wiggins got probation … I think that’s news that merits first-page coverage,” Rodgers said.

The Husker legend said he felt the press had been a positive factor for him during his public career.

“Overall, I would have to think it has been a plus for me,” Rodgers said. “It’s enabled me to keep a great bit of visibility.”

Overby asked Rave whether she thought American Indians were covered fairly or unfairly by the media.

Rave said: “I think Native people have experienced both. When they do get covered, the news hasn’t always been portrayed fairly.”

Rave said reporters could reverse stereotypes of American Indians and other minorities by visiting more with community minority members.

“Journalists need to get out into those communities more,” she said.

Nelson, who’s been involved in four political campaigns, offered his view of the media in its coverage of political candidates. He told Overby he noticed coverage of his campaigns had varied greatly.

“I thought that (my) first race was well-covered because there was excitement to it,” Nelson said. “The coverage was very complete and detailed. I thought it was fair.”
Nelson won the 1990 and 1994 gubernatorial elections but was defeated in 1996 for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Nelson is currently running again for U.S. Senate.

Overby asked Nelson if the first and second races were better covered because they were victories.

Nelson laughed, saying, “It’s easier to enjoy the relationship with the media when you’re winning.”

Toward the end of the discussion, Overby asked Norton to assess the future of the newspaper industry.

“I don’t think it will ever disappear in terms of a printed product,” Norton said. “I think newspapers are something that have been delivered in a certain fashion … We have to adjust to technology.”

Lewis D’Vorkin, vice president of content strategy at America On-Line and a speaker at another J Days event, agreed.

“I think newspapers are going to adapt,” D’Vorkin said in response to an audience-directed question from Overby. “They’ll look for more functionality.”

Neuharth concluded the discussion by commenting on the future of newspaper journalism.

“I believe that the future of the media is bright,” Neuharth said.

He said reporters would find more opportunities in journalism with the emergence of the Internet. For example, he said, online papers will most likely seek newspaper reporters well-trained in gathering news and information.

“I can tell you that it will not only be rewarding, but it will be fun,” he said.