SMXQ: Dave Marash

Dave Marash is an acclaimed American television journalist. He has reported on many major stories, both domestic and international, over a period spanning decades. When he joined Al Jazeera English as the network’s Washington, DC anchor it caused much public debate. Prior to that he worked with ABC News on Nightline, their flagship current affairs programme. Before Nightline, he spent more than a decade in local news and sports, and worked at ABC’s 20/20 and CBS Radio. The broadcaster won an Overseas Press Club Award for his 1972 radio reports on the Munich Olympic Games terrorist attack, and also received Emmy Awards for his Nightline coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing and for his coverage of the explosion of TWA Flight 800.

On 21st September 2010 at 12 PM, he will give a talk on ‘The Religion of Journalism: Our God is Reality – What’s There?’ at the Siobhan McKenna Theatre in NUI Galway for the MA in Journalism guest speaker series. We are happy to say that Dave’s talk will be sponsored by Technology Voice.

Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

From the day in my early teens, in the ‘Capitol of the Confederacy,’ Richmond, VA, when I knew in my heart I would never be a major league athlete, I aimed at play-by-play broadcasting as the next best thing. But in broadcasting and life, you do the jobs that are offered, and so I spun records, read the weather, and the news, as well as describing the odd athletic event. Even though I loved taking play-by-play assignments, and did make it to three major leagues, news was more interesting. Since 1959 I’ve done news or sports or something on American radio or TV. Best by far were the 16 years with ABC News’ ‘Nightline with Ted Koppel,’ where I became the overseas traveler and covered most of the major international stories of 1989-2005 for a broadcast of unique ambition and integrity. You may think of it as the progenitor of the BBC’s Newsnight, whose planning team modeled it on Koppel’s Nightline (alas, the broadcast has changed radically since he left it.)

What was your route into social media?

I’m a natural troglodyte. I only learned to text in 2008 because it was the only affordable way for my Chinese students to communicate. Necessity also wedged me into Facebook. I had joined earlier, but rarely visited. In China, by myself, half a world away from everyone I knew (although surrounded by several wonderful teaching colleagues and students), the social connection of Facebook became very important to me. Once I returned to the States in 2009, my Facebook use has dropped, but only a bit.

Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

Presently, I am pursuing two areas: First, watching the global explosion, maybe renaissance, of video news and information, particularly the proliferation of television news channels and internet video sites like YouTube.

My other obsession, is a long time mantra, ‘news at the speed of thought.’ Speed kills the representation of reality which is what journalism is supposed to do. Obviously, not the speed of events. Reporting is meant to move as fast as necessary. It’s the speed of the ‘news broadcast,’ the brevity of the reports, but even more so, the speed of the edits in montage. It is increasingly impossible for viewers ever to see what the videographer saw, at the very moment when technology has enabled remarkable levels of speed, accuracy and clarity in the global distribution of audio/visual information. Speed is the instrument of our auto-lobotomy.

What social media services do you use regularly and why?

Although I have accounts on other sites, the only one I use at all regularly is Facebook. Twitter, I might occasionally check during a breaking news event. By and large, although I’m at my CPU long hours of the day, it’s usually for more traditional forms of infosearching. It turns out I am even less virtually social than in real life/time.

If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

E-mail. I love it, use it all the day. As my Chinese students taught me, through e-mail or text you can get almost anything. And at a speed and in a package my aging brain can use.

Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

To me, it’s all about the network, about the ever-increasing variety of interweaving and interconnecting mega-highways, and local byways which are changing the world as we know it. The new social, intellectual, economic options opening to people, are changing the way we think, speak, interact, spend our day. Much of this is for better. Some, I fear, for worse. All, I truly fear, is susceptible to outside manipulation of content, access and security.

What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

Interact with people, obtain information, especially visual information, like never before.

What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

To me, the smartest thing Henry Kissinger ever said was this: ‘Today, alas, power goes to whoever wants it the most.’ Thus, as market activities, media can be moved by power, by politics, by greed: content can be shaped, access can be limited, people can be manipulated. The antidote to manipulation is reality, but the more time we spend on social media, the smaller our dose of ‘what’s out there,’ reality.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

My relative ignorance and inexperience suggest silence.

How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

By encouraging human communication, by spreading information of value, by giving evidence of the benefits of interdependence.

Dave will be speaking at the Siobhan McKenna Theatre from 12:00 to 13:30, Tuesday, 21st September.

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