If the attendees of the latest NYU Media Talk had to sum up the event using a single word, that would have been it. Students and alumni of the NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) mingled with faculty members and prominent figures of the industry both before and after the highlight of the night: a panel discussion entitled “Social Content: What’s Working? What’s Not? What’s Next?”
New York Times Columnist David Carr, the evening’s moderator, began by joking about his “murderer’s row”, as he called the three panelists: Rob Malda, Chief Strategist and Editor-at-Large of The Washington Post’s WaPoLabs; Josh Quittner, Editorial Director of Flipboard; and Ben Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Buzzfeed. The conversation opened with how drastically print publications had been digitalized, both on the internet and, more recently, on tablets. “Magazines and newspapers are the most beautiful representations of words in the world,” Quittner stated, “and browsers have ruined that.” Luckily, businesses like Flipboard, he continued, work on “restoring the glory and beauty of texts” in order for the consumer to fully appreciate their publication.
The way people consume their media, Carr pointed out, hasn’t even stayed the same. “I don’t surf that much anymore,” he said. “Content is always pushed toward me, recommended. Things have changed.” Smith could relate to pushy content. “It’s stressful but satisfying,” he said, “to be feeding the beast of a constantly updating blog.”
SPI students could certainly relate to the concept. Student Elise Cantini said her work on the final project for SPI focused on five different social media outlets, including up-and-comer Pinterest. “Personally,” she said, “I definitely can fall into the multitasking portion of our generation when it comes to social outlets.”
One of the most heated subjects of the evening came when Carr asked the questions, “Do you worry that social is going to end up only telling us what we want to know? Are people putting lipstick on serious things so we’ll read them?”
“There is a formal language Facebook uses that newspapers don’t,” Smith said. “The seriousness can be the lipstick,” he added, citing the Kony 2012 video about the atrocities of a Ugandan warlord that erupted onto the social media scene just a few months ago. The video sparked an outpouring of support for Invisible Children, the nonprofit behind Kony 2012, and showed the power of the viral web.
After the talk concluded, Andrea Chambers, Director of the NYU-SCPS Center for Publishing, gave a request for the dividing curtain to rise, dazzling the audience with its first full glimpse of the entire Rosenthal Pavilion in the Kimmel Center, where the event took place. The array of fine foods, the selection of wine, and the bright lights of the cityscape, while all beautiful, took a back seat to what was happening inside the Pavilion.
While the Media Talk addressed the impersonal interconnection among people immersed in social media, the reception showcased that humans, no matter what age or affiliation, are still capable of socializing face-to-face. Laughter, light conversation, and even the rustle of business-card exchanges filled the air as people kept their phones and tablets in their bags and connected with each other using smiles and eye contact.
“I enjoyed it,” said SPI student Maria Carter. “The networking portion was far less awkward than I had thought it was going to be, and I made some very valuable contacts.”
The night ended with Kimmel Center staff dimming and brightening the lights, subtly signaling that the time to leave had passed more than thirty minutes before. Students and publishing professionals alike disappointedly made their way to the exit, still holding conversation.
No one wanted to stop socializing.
by Kaitlyn Mullis