My Life As: Justine Redman (10-17-11)

By Christine Powell
Justine Redman, a producer for the CNN Anderson Cooper 360 show who shared in two Emmy Awards for coverage of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, said yesterday at Stony Brook University that “the future of journalism is not in blogging” because reporting demands first-hand observation of news events.

“Journalism can’t be replaced just by the Internet because the job of a journalist is to spend all day finding out what’s going on in the world and say ‘here’s what you really need to know,’” Redman said.

Speaking at “My Life As…” event sponsored by the School of Journalism, Redman said she wasn’t sure how mainstream media would contend with economic pressures that have led to cutbacks throughout the industry but that “the need for the craft of journalism” is undeniable.

If all news came from the Internet, she said, consumers would get limited information and little perspective. “If you go searching, you’re only going to get news about what you’re interested in,” said Redman. “It’s self-perpetuating.”

Underlining what she said was the unique ability of a major news organization to pursue a story, Redman said she and her team recently traveled three days in each direction to cover a story about airport construction on the remote Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

The airport is being built for a community of 100 people at a cost of $77 million, almost $60 million of which is being provided by U.S. taxpayers, Redman said.

“CNN has the capital to send us all that way but, understandably, a blogger can’t do that,” Redman said.

Redman has worked at CNN for 12 years. She began as an intern, held several jobs lower level jobs and ultimately was named a field producer.
Speaking to an audience of approximately 300 in the Student Activities Center, Redman recalled her experiences in Haiti.

Arriving within 24 hours of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, Redman and other CNN personnel initially could find no transportation from the airport. Redman checked a car rental outlet but it was closed. Finally, she recruited local men to take the crew to Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.

“The job of a producer is really to troubleshoot,” Redman said. “There’s a difference between planning and being prepared. Nothing goes according to plan, and you miss things if you plan too much. You have to see what happens.”

She cited early experiences with CNN as pivotal to her career.

“The great thing about having done all those entry-level jobs is understanding how everything works, which is very helpful when things start to go wrong,” she said.

Several audience members said they agreed with Redman’s views on traditional journalism and the blogosphere.

Jacqueline Farquharson, a 21 year-old political science major, said she relies on the daily press and network broadcasts for news. “As you get older, you rely on the real news for a lot of your information about the world,” she said.
Christine Rasser, a student with Osher Life Long Learning Institute, a program that facilitates learning for retired and semi-retired individuals, said that, like Redman, she worried about the Internet’s credibility. “She made really valid points,” Rasser said, adding that she relies on fact-checking sites like the to verify web information. Then, she said, “I’ll believe it.”

Speaking to journalism students before the My Life As… event, Redman said that she was a history major in college and never formally studied journalism. As a professional who has covered some of the most important stories of the last decade, Redman says she thinks of journalism as an invaluable public service – “the first draft of history.”

Christine Powell is a student in JRN 110/02

Photos by Hallie Golden / School of Journalism.