PULLMAN, Wash. — Those attending the 31st Edward R. Murrow Symposium April 13 on the Pullman campus of Washington State University, likely left the event with a deeper understanding of the complexities facing media on the topic of credibility.

Panelists for the discussion, “Trust Me: I’m a Paid Professional: Telling the Truth Amid Declining Credibility,” included Richard Brown, main anchor of KXLY TV Spokane, and a 25-year veteran of network and large market television newscasts; Stanley Farrar, managing editor for seattletimes.com, the website of the Seattle Times; Mike Fitzsimmons, attorney, KXLY news radio talk host and faculty member of communications at Gonzaga University; Bill Kaczaraba, news director, Q13 FOX, Seattle; Dave Ross, radio talk-show host, 710 KIRO Newsradio, Seattle; Steve Smith, editor of The Spokesman-Review.

The panel was moderated by Rick Busselle, former broadcast journalist and currently associate professor in the Murrow School of Communication.

Busselle set the stage for the discussion by quoting Pew Research Center Statistics which indicate the majority of Americans do not trust what they see, hear or read. Panelists then shared insights into why they believe journalists are facing this predicament.

Smith cited internal and external factors at his newspaper, including issues over which he has little or no control. “People are less interested in daily news delivered by traditional journalists,” he said. Smith told the crowd he believes societal cynicism, a decline in civic engagement and declining involvement in democratic citizenship are partly to blame.

“What we in local news face is a fragmentation and explosion of information,” said Brown. “People can choose from dozens of sources for information.”

All of the panelists agreed with the concept that a free press is integral to a free society. And panelists were nearly unanimous in recognizing the precariousness of viewers not always making the distinction between news and infotainment or opinion based news topic shows. “If you’re looking for a challenge,” said Kaczaraba, “try having your news follow a show called “Who’s Your Daddy?”

“What do you do when the truth is boring?” asked Dave Ross. “We don’t survive if it’s boring,” he said.

Farrar conceded that declining dependence on traditional journalism is partly the fault of the media. “There are thousands of communities out there,” he said, “and we tried to treat them like they were all the same. They moved past us and found each other on bulletin boards, in chat rooms and now on web logs.”

Farrar raised the possibility that what the U.S. media is experiencing is simply a painful step into a new news delivery model. Smith followed by saying, “There have been numerous technology driven and sociologically driven changes in journalism. I don’t think anyone knows what the industry will look like 15 years from now.” Smith said he accepts the possibility that newspapers are “thoroughly and utterly doomed” but said what’s important is that newspaper journalism values be preserved.

The annual symposium is a national forum for the discussion of social, political and media issues. The day-long event also included workshops that gave university and high school students a chance to hear from industry experts. The evening festivities included a pre-symposium banquet recognizing student achievement with scholarships.

WSU is the alma mater of Edward R. Murrow, who is credited by many as being the journalist who brought respectability to broadcast reporting. The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication is the only program in the Northwest that offers sequences in all six communication fields: advertising, broadcasting, communication, communication studies, journalism and public relations. It offers the only comprehensive broadcast education program in the state of Washington.