Davies Forum Hosts Innovative Real News Network CEO

The 2009 Davies Forum, entitled “Remaking the News”, entertained the first guest speaker of the semester this past Thursday.

Paul Jay, founder and CEO of the Real News Network (RNN), came to USF as part of the forum and discussed everything from the war in Iraq, to hip-hop artist Chuck Dee, to the new Obama administration. The RNN is unique because it is funded solely by donations and because its correspondents are native to the area that they are writing about.

The Real News Network is an independent news and documentary network focusing on independent journalism. It is comprised of video discussions and interviews, diving into topics that Jay said the mainstream media will not talk about.

“You will never hear CNN or Fox approach the question of whether or not we should cut the budget when it comes to military,” said Jay, whose media outlet is solely online right now, but is in the process of finalizing a deal with TiVo to get the Real News Network on television.

Media studies professor Dorothy Kidd, who is teaching the Davis Forum class this semester, learned about Jay by reading his work in the Huffington Post. “He has a very solid background in mainstream news that’s based on explaining stories to encourage public debate and discussion,” said Kidd. “This approach fits with the Davies Forum mandate, and the University’s mission.”

“We are at a crossroads in our existence,” Jay said to a group of 13 media studies students in the Davies Forum class on Thursday afternoon, and later to a group of roughly 60 students, parents and faculty members on Thursday evening. Jay, who began his media career as an independent documentary filmmaker, talked about the importance of the immediate decisions people make regarding the future. “This generation will be the generation to decide if we continue to exist.”

According to Jay, people still have a misconception that things will soon go back to normal. However, “We have gotten to a point at which we can never go back to the way life used to be,” he said, discussing the mainstream media’s and the Obama administration’s oversimplification of the new economic stimulus bill.
Jay’s Real News Network is run solely on donations, following the funding plan discovered and used by the Howard Dean Presidential Campaign in 2004. “Nobody knew if people would be trusting enough to give financial information over the internet,” he said. “Dean’s campaign was the first to show that this was possible.”

What makes the Real News Network unique other than its funding method is that the network has reporters embedded in all areas of the world that are native to the areas that they are covering. The RNN has Arabs reporting from Gaza, Chinese reporting from China, and Afghans reporting from Afghanistan. Jay said the RNN is looking to start a San Francisco branch, and he recruited a group of USF students to get the branch started after his second talk of the day at USF.

“I think that the Real News Network is a network that is going to appeal to a lot of people who don’t usually watch news,” said senior media studies major and Davies Forum student Stephanie Luu, who said she sees shortcomings in the new network. “People like what’s convenient,” she said. “I’m not sure how convenient the Real News Network is because it’s only on the internet.”

Soon, Jay plans to take his network to television and hopes to get enough support from donors to keep the network alive. The RNN can be found at www.therealnews.com.

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