Veteran journalist urges deeper news understanding
A lot of people say that newspapers may cease to exist. Its possible, Hoffman, a UD alumnus, said. But, one thing that will be the same, you are going to need more understanding, and that means you still need journalism to go find that understanding. You will need experts. You still need thinking people to sift the news, to look behind it, to tell narratives of what happened. You are not going to get that in the world of data storm: The world of Google, Yahoo! and MSNBC.
Hoffmans speech to UD students on Wednesday, March 2, was part of Global Agenda, UDs annual international affairs speaker series and an undergraduate course in which students meet practitioners in foreign policy and media from the U.S. and other nations.
Organized by Ralph Begleiter, UDs Rosenberg Professor of Communication and distinguished journalist in residence, the series is cosponsored by UD and the World Affairs Council of Wilmington.
Hoffman said the information revolution has created a tsunami of change, evident in events that have recently taken place in Lebanon, Ukraine, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, but it also has created challenges for journalism to adapt to globalization.
Theres been a sea change, a complete revolution . . . in the last 20 or 30 years, certainly in our lifetime, and one of the things that science has given us is extraordinary transparency about the world, he said. The world is a better place for that, but there is another side to this . . . we get enormous amounts of data about the world. If you are interested in China and Taiwan, Israel and Palestinians, Ukraine, Lebanon, you can get data, but where do you get understanding?
Hoffman explained that The Washington Post foreign correspondents in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Mexico, Canada and South America are required to find and report original stories and delve behind the headlines.
A good foreign correspondent, Hoffman said, is a clear thinker who shows individuality, is obsessed and curious about the assigned beat, has plenty of stamina and excellent public observation skills and values originality and authenticity. He advised the students, mostly journalism, communication and international relations majors, to consider learning foreign languages and focus on in-depth journalism.
Kurt Mueller, a senior international relations and economics major, said the talk was encouraging and it helped him understand how a senior editor in a major newspaper looks at the world.
It was a really great talk, Veronica Marohn, a sophomore international relations major, said. She was one of several students who stayed after the talk for an hour-long question-and-answer session. It just makes me analyze what news I get from the Internet. It makes me start thinking that I should look beyond the headlines and find out the background.
Hoffman predicted that the unstoppable technological advancement in the golden age of information will transform the method of news delivery and that far-flung, less-developed nations without a well-established press today eventually will use the Internet as their predominant or only source of news.
Before his recent appointment, Hoffman served as the newspapers foreign editor since 2001. He joined the newspaper in 1982 after covering Ronald Reagans presidential campaign for Knight-Ridder Newspapers. He covered the White House during the presidencies of Reagan and George H.W. Bush and was a diplomatic correspondent in Washington from 1990-92.
From 1992-94, Hoffman was the newspaper's bureau chief in Jerusalem. From 1995 until January 2001, he was Moscow bureau chief, a tour which later produced an acclaimed book, The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, published in 2002.
From 1975-77, Hoffman worked for the Wilmington News Journal newspapers. From 1977-78, he was a correspondent for Capitol Hill News Service in Washington. In 1979-82, he was Washington correspondent for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury-News and economics correspondent for Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
In 1985, Hoffman received both the Aldo Beckman Award for White House correspondence and the Merriman Smith award for deadline coverage of the president. In 1989, he received the Gerald R. Ford Award for distinguished coverage of the presidency. In 1999, he was awarded the SAIS-Novartis Prize for Excellence in International Journalism for a series of articles published in 1998 on the legacy of the Cold War in Russia.
Born in Palo Alto, Calif., Hoffman attended the University of Delaware, and in 1994-95 was a senior associate member at St. Antony's College, Oxford. He is married to Carole Fleming Hoffman, a University of Delaware graduate. They have two sons and live in Maryland.
Article by Martin Mbugua
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