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Updated 10:00 AM September 10, 2007




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Hovey lecturer to focus on quality of local news

Despite plunging circulation in many markets, the newspaper industry isn't that bad off, says editor-in-chief of The Bulletin of Bend, Ore., John Costa, who studied at U-M as a Hovey fellow in 1992-93.
(Photo courtesy The Bulletin)

"I think the newspaper business is in better shape than one would assume given the whining that is heard around the business," Costa says. "It is clearly in a period of some transformation."

Costa will discuss "Local News: Quality Pays" in the 2007 Graham Hovey Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Wallace House, 620 Oxford Road.

Named for a previous director of the Knight-Wallace Fellows program, the lecture honors alumni whose subsequent careers show the benefits of sabbatical studies at U-M. During Costa's fellowship, he examined methods that could be used to better understand the future of American communities.

"In my view all newspapers are 'community' newspapers, in that they're dependent on a community of readers. To meet their needs, one has to understand their issues, and their issues are likely to define the community they belong to," he says.

"The most important realization I gained at U-M was that communities are not static; they are constantly redefining, and so editors can not take them for granted."

A Vietnam veteran, Costa, a Pulitzer Prize juror, has worked in the newspaper business as a reporter and editor since leaving the Army in 1969. He was the deputy managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times, where he worked for 20 years, and was the executive editor of The Idaho Statesman for four years before moving to Bend in 1997.

While newspaper staffs continue to shrink at area dailies and around the country, Costa says there are positives to report about the newspaper industry. "Newspapers are serving readers electronically, which is very good, and the ownership of newspapers may finally be realizing that it cannot safeguard their newspapers and continue to gouge profits."

Costa describes his time in Ann Arbor as a Hovey fellow as "a great year."

"It was the year that my second son was diagnosed with diabetes and treated brilliantly at the hospital, which may be the most important memory we have."

For more information and to RSVP, call 998-7666.

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