Former Kiplinger Fellow Lynn Walsh takes SPJ reins, talks journalism’s challenges

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Kiplinger Fellowship alumna Lynn Walsh will assume the leadership role of the nation’s largest journalism organization when she is sworn in as president of the Society of Professional Journalists on Sept. 20.

A 2014 Fellow, she is an executive producer for the investigative unit at KNSD NBC 7 in San Diego. Walsh has won state and local awards as well as multiple Emmys. She is also the producer of the Lynn Walsh Daily, an aggregated news website.

Kiplinger alumna and SPJ incoming president Lynn Walsh The Ohio State University Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

In her leadership role with SPJ, Walsh will be asked to set the tone for an organization with 8,000 professional and student members during a time of business uncertainty for the news media.

We asked her to give us some insight into how she envisions her year in office.

What do you believe to be the greatest challenges facing journalism today and what, in your future capacity, can you do to help address those?

The constantly changing landscape of the flow of information. I think social media and the web have made our jobs easier and more exciting but also harder and more confusing. News is not just produced in newsrooms any longer, it’s happening instantaneously all around us. I think this is a great for the public, but it means we need to adapt the way we produce news.

As a leader in SPJ, I think this expands our role and responsibility to think of programs and ways to reach people that may not consider themselves journalists. It means educating the public about journalistic ethics, the impact publishing content online can have, and the resources and information available to them through public information laws.

You’re in a traditional media – television. How significantly has it changed to meet modern consumer demands?

The format of TV news has not changed much but HOW it is viewed and the priorities of journalists inside TV newsrooms has changed and continues to change. The Investigative unit I oversee at NBC in San Diego will publish and produce online-only investigative stories. That was not happening at the station before, but now it happens often. We also will publish our investigative video stories online before they air. I see TV stations trying all sorts of new storytelling techniques, especially with social media. Now, is it happening as quickly as some, including myself, would like it, not all the time. You are going to continue to see TV news change to meet the online demands of the public, and I think you will see it happen even more quickly in the next couple of years than it did during the last five.

If professional journalists are still needed 10 years from now, what do you see as their roles?

I do not think the question is “if” — they will be. Look, I love that any individual with access to the internet can have just as much influence with a tweet or YouTube video as an article in the New York Times. This is good for journalism, and it is good for democracy and the world. BUT, there will still be a place for professional and ethical journalism. Think about breaking news situations. There is so much information coming in so quickly on the internet during a big breaking news event, how does a member of the public sort through that? They turn to those journalists and professionals they trust. That has been the role of a journalist and always will be. To ethically, fairly and accurately report information to the public. As journalists, we have to remember this and be careful not to get pulled in to being first and inaccurate.

Now that you’ve reached a position of leadership, what’s the best advice you can share with younger journalists coming up should they want to follow your lead and become journalism leaders?

Pursue what you love, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Yes, there are processes in place, and you should be respectful of those, but it doesn’t mean you are stuck to them. Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with people who may be in positions above yours. If you have a good idea, want to help and are skilled at what you do, people are normally more than willing to listen and let you lead the way.

Did the Kiplinger Fellowship influence you in any way?

The Kiplinger Fellowship, and others like it, are a great way to further your career. It’s always important to continue to learn the newest tools and tricks, and when you are doing that throughout your career with other journalists, it’s a win-win. It is a great networking opportunity and it’s fun.

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