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National Public Radio's Scott Simon discusses his career as a journalist and the evolving state of the media industry.

Scott Simon knows the state of journalism has evolved from when he started in the 1970s. 

As a young reporter, he covered the Civil War in El Salvador. He drove to where shots were fired, and reported breaking news on the massacre. His job was to tally wartime deaths, and he was told the most accurate method was to count the slaughtered heads.

Photo: Vernon Young
Scott Simon of NPR speaks at Hendricks Chapel before a crowd of more than 250 students Tuesday night in Hendricks Chapel. Simon spoke as part of the Syracuse University Lecture Series.

“It was a turning point in my career and established me as a certain kind of journalist when I was willing to undertake certain risks to report,” Simon said.

Simon, a writer, novelist and award winning host of national public radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday, shared personal anecdotes during his lecture Tuesday night in Hendricks Chapel, as part of the Syracuse University Lectures Series.

In today's era of journalism, Simon said, the reporting he learned in El Salvador would be unnecessary.

“Today you can get the news as fast as you want, and in any way that you want to hear, see or read it,” Simon said. “Because of mobile phones, Twitter and Facebook, by the time reporters would get there, it would already be told in real time.”

During his lecture, titled “Covering the World,” Simon shared stories from the career that has brought him to all 50 states and every continent, to provide first-hand reports and live coverage from ground zero in New York City, wars, national disasters, elections and scandals.

“I have been lucky enough to live through a very rich and blessed career in journalism,” Simon said.

Simon said the real problem journalists face today is that they are losing  what journalism should be about.

“Journalists need to challenge (the public’s) views of the world,” Simon said. “I believe that when you are a real enterprise journalist, every now and then, you have to not just risk offending the audience, but sometimes outrage them. Real journalism is supposed to surprise the audience with something they didn’t know, or knew but had wrong.”

After a 30 minute lecture, Simon held an extensive question and answer session that lasted longer than the actual speech. One audience member asked Simon about the importance of diversity in journalism, which he deemed a necessity to moving forward.

“Diversity in journalism just helps us be smarter, more informed and wiser in reporting what the world is really all about,” he said.

The depth of the question and answer segment surprised Daniel Longo, a senior broadcast journalism and international relations major. Longo expected Simon’s speech to be longer.

“But it made it more engaging to me and the audience,” Longo said. “I thought he answered all the questions well and he shed light on what it is to be a journalist today.”

The last question of the lecture asked Simon about his future, on the radio and in the media.

Simon said he likes working for NPR, while balancing it with writing novels and doing television work for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His upcoming book, Simon said, reflects on adoption stories, along with his personal story of adopting two Chinese children with his wife. And he already has another book in the works.

“I hope to continue working for sometime. I have two young daughters and they’re going to Syracuse,” Simon said, which drew applause and ended his lecture. 

Scott SimonVideo: Watch The NewsHouse exclusive interview with Scott Simon, Covering the world.

Editors' Note: In the original version, the article said the BBC stood for British Broadcasting Channel. It actually stands for British Broadcasting Corporation. We apologize for this mistake. 


The BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation, not channel.

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