Robin Sproul

ABC’s Robin Sproul on Reporting ‘Bundled’ News in a Highly Competitive Market

September 9, 2014 – To kick off the Speaker Series for the fall semester, the Shorenstein Center invited Robin Sproul of ABC News to discuss the challenges of reporting news in a shifting media landscape.

Sproul, who was recently promoted to Vice President of Public Affairs for ABC News, outlined several ways that the news industry is changing, and how a legacy news organization like ABC must work to maintain a high level of reporting.

Stating that she emerged from the “typewriters to Twitter era,” Sproul looks at the future and asks the question, “Now, Twitter to what?” What will be the next step in the digital revolution that has changed the news industry so drastically?

In the last several years, the goal of a legacy organization was to “get the news to you wherever you are,” Sproul said. Now, the focus has shifted to finding the audience and attempting to “break through the fire hose of information” in a way that is useful to the user.

The rise of citizen journalism has also changed the nature of reporting, Sproul observed. She said that she was “moved by the Ferguson coverage,” when a local community came together to tell their own story in real time, and start conversations all around the country through social media. “They could serve as their own personal witnesses to history,” she said. And while there was misinformation that came out, she noted, the situation was interesting in that events were recorded and shared in real time, and had a larger impact on news coverage across the country.

Partnerships with platforms such as Facebook are important to a broader view of news programming, Sproul said. “Competition is greater than ever,” with outlets like BuzzFeed, Vice and even Reddit’s AMA’s vying for viewers. Yet the challenge of the “bundled” news programs, unlike the more “boutique” programs, she said, is to keep the larger picture in mind for the viewers, and present analysis which is essential in an era of scattered news videos, Tweets and posts pouring out of the fire hose.

Article and photo by Janell Sims, Shorenstein Center.