Andrew Morse ’96, this semester’s Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalist, visited campus Tuesday to discuss his work transitioning the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to be competitive in the digital era, the impacts of technology on journalism and the state of the journalism industry as a whole at an event titled “Inside Journalism.”
The event was sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Career Development office and moderated by Vee Cipperman ’23, who is a current senior editor and the former editor-in-chief of The Sun.
Prior to becoming president and publisher of the AJC, a 155-year-old newspaper, Morse served as a senior executive at CNN — where he was the architect of CNN+ — Bloomberg and ABC News. During his time at Cornell, Morse served as the editor-in-chief of The Sun.
Morse is known in industry circles as an advocate for digital media and for reinventing media outlets to fit into the modern media landscape. Following a brief introduction and explanation of his career path, Morse expanded upon his philosophy regarding digital transformation and the “digital-first” vision he holds for the AJC.
“We can build a really robust product, both with world class journalism and in great storytelling, [creating] connection points to people’s lives,” Morse said. “If we do invest digitally in the right kind of products with technology and marketing, we can build something that’s really meaningful.”
When asked about the effects of technological advancements on the journalism industry, Morse focused on the role of cell phones and how they have fundamentally changed not just the journalism industry, but society as well.
“It is almost impossible to describe just the impact that the smartphone has had on journalism,” Morse said. “The ability to have a device in your pocket that gives you access to anything, anywhere, all the time, is so powerful, much more than we even think. As we have seen [with] this rapidly advancing technology, every newsroom has to shift their mentality.”
Additionally, Morse discussed the way the AJC has changed how it breaks major stories to fit with the new paradigm.
“If we have a big story to break, we break it online,” Morse said. “The New York Times and their innovation report that they published in 2014 to spark their consideration — the biggest thing about that was the [print] paper came second. They focused first and foremost on the digital report. That’s what we’re doing at the AJC. We wake up and refocus 24 hours, and I think from a positive perspective it’s enabled us all to be better informed.”
Morse also said that artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for publications, which can use it to do basic work such as show traffic patterns or update sports scores.
“The short-term, immediate-use cases where I think AI can be most helpful in newsrooms is sorting through information for the public that it’s otherwise really hard,” Morse said. “You still need an editor to go through and verify, make sure it’s true and call around and get some quotes. But the legwork of the basic reporting — there’s value in [AI].”
He went on, however, to say that AI could be used to disseminate misinformation — particularly during electoral campaigns — and that it is journalists’ role to fight it.
“It’s much easier to use AI to publish a fake story filled with misinformation than it is to use AI as a fact-checking tool,” Morse said. “I don’t think it’s going to replace journalists. I don’t think it’s going to replace original reporting, mainly because I don’t think [AI-generated articles are] what customers want.”
Morse offered a piece of advice to aspiring journalists — gain as much experience as possible.
“There’s no better way to [learn] journalism than doing journalism. And so if you’re thinking it’s a career you want to pursue, do it. That’s step one,” Morse said. “Step two is, it’s really important to have a grounding in the business. … I think getting grounded in the broader forces and pressures on the industry — it’s really important to get grounded in that.”
Following the event, Canela Garcia DeMetropolis ’23 said that she attended to get a better understanding of the journalism industry.
“This is actually my first introduction to journalism,” Garcia said. “I hadn’t been exposed to the industry or pursued it as a career before today… I learned a lot and I am more interested today than I was yesterday.”
Adriana Arce ’25, meanwhile, revealed how Morse’s talk inspired her to consider how she can enter the journalism world even as a student.
“What stood out to me is the fact that you can get your foot in the door as a student,” Arce said. “The moderator was a student, and in a lot of the talks that I go to, the moderator is either not a student or there’s no moderator. [I like how] this event especially works so closely with the student body.”
After the event, Morse stressed in an interview with The Sun the importance of innovation for journalism to thrive in the future.
“I think it’s really important that we find ways to innovate and to innovate quickly,” Morse said. “I think that the distinctions that we’ve always had around radio or print or broadcast are meaningless today.”
Morse also stressed the importance of building trust in the media within the general public and that it is the media’s role to denounce the propagation of misinformation.
“It’s important that we are not afraid to call out misinformation, and we’re not afraid to call out when people aren’t being truthful,” Morse said. “If we can do that, it’ll continue to build trust among audiences.”
Finally, Morse highlighted curiosity as the best quality in a journalist.
“You have to be curious about the world around you,” Morse said. “You have to be willing to ask questions you have to be willing to explore. There’s no substitute for that.”