Pulitzer Prize winner and San Francisco State University alumnus Jose Antonio Vargas began his presentation at the Davies Forum with a short video about the prevalence of technology in the future, specifically noting its effects on Obama’s presidential campaign. He offered a somewhat foreign positive outlook on the future of journalism, which he envisions as reliant on rich media and technological innovations, like Twitter.
“I can’t imagine a better time to be going into journalism,” he told the Davies students who looked puzzled and waited for him to elaborate. “We get to shape the future of the industry,” he continued, admitting that the industry is more competitive than ever and that to get into it “you have to be a good storyteller.”
Vargas said that figuring out what being a multimedia journalist means is an issue he continually faces. The common perception of a “multimedia journalist” is one who tells a story through different media: print, video, Internet, etc. It could also mean doing fieldwork through different media, as Vargas did during his reporting of the Virginia Tech shooting, a piece for which he eventually won a Pulitzer Prize.
Vargas was watching the Virginia Tech shooting unfold on television when he saw a student interviewed on camera and decided that the student had more to tell than the television reporter asked him about.
“I went online and found him on Facebook after I got his name off the TV,” said Vargas. Luckily the student was near a computer, quickly accepted Vargas’ friend request, and did a quick phone interview with Vargas that same day.
Vargas wrote a quick news piece, presented it to the news team (at the Washington Post?), and was immediately put on the story.
For Vargas, there is always a story within a story. In 2005, Vargas was a video game reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. When writing about and reviewing “Grand Theft Auto,” he went to both poor and rich communities to see how the reception of the game differed between different socioeconomic groups.
He later joined the political reporting team in January of 2007 to cover the presidential campaigns. He was curious to find out what Hillary Clinton meant in her YouTube video when she said to viewers, “I want to have a conversation with you.”
“I have always felt like an outsider to politics,” said Vargas, as he described his view of politics as people in suits standing on podiums and talking to each other, not concerned with what he cared about.
The evolution of the Internet is changing as politicians and officials are forced to answer the questions of the everyday people, who are equipped with networking sites and blogs and empowered by the infinite realm of information that the world wide web offers. The Internet also has its pitfalls in the form of unanswered questions and gray areas.
Vargas is currently working on a code of conduct for the newsroom on how to deal with information on networking sites.
“There is no code for this stuff,” he said as the questions about Facebook began to arise from the class. He did not end his talk before trying to instill old school journalism ethics in the industry’s future, telling the class that he finds it disingenuous not to tell people you are a reporter as soon as you meet hem. For Vargas, meeting people is one of the most important parts of the job.
“Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation,” he said.