SUMMIT NJ:  Five leading journalists discuss the 'essential purpose' of news, and imagine vast changes in our democracy in 15 years. This 'non-partisan, no-blame' forum steers clear of finance and party politics, and focuses instead on citizens as creative problem-solvers. Terry Baker (Al Jazeera America), Mark Di Ionno (The Star-Ledger), Jim Schachter (WNYC), Kate Tomlinson (New Jersey Monthly), and Mary Alice Williams (NJTV) share stories, passions, and perspectives on their careers and current work.  (Co-presented by Interweave & NJ Arts News.)


00:00 - Discussion Opening

04:50 - What Drew You Into Journalism?

14:21 Two Greatest Challenges for All Citizens

24:04 Hypothetical: Voter Participation Jumps to 85%

32:46 - Hypothetical: America's Health Metrics Improve

37:07 - Hypothetical: Ideally, What Might News Be?

44:48 - Audience Questions: Gerrymandering; Media Branding; Journalism As Writing; Civic Engagement

55:01 - Extra: What Do You Love Most About Journalism?

Terry Baker serves as Al Jazeera America’s Executive Vice President of Presentation, overseeing all program planning and scheduling for the channel.  His responsibilities include coordinating activities between Al Jazeera America’s television channel, Web and mobile platforms with support from departments such as marketing, press, ad sales, research and affiliate relations. Prior to joining Al Jazeera America, Baker served as EVP of Production at Current TV, where he built the channel’s live programming slate, as well as acquiring and scheduling other programming.

Prior to that, Baker was part of the launch team at FOX Business Network, serving as Executive Producer for primetime and weekend programming.  Baker also worked at CNN for six years, including as a Senior Executive Producer for “Anderson Cooper 360” and as a senior producer for “Newsnight with Aaron Brown.” Earlier in his career, he worked as ABC News including as a producer for “Good Morning America,” and at WNBC-TV in New York, the flagship of the NBC affiliate network, where he served as the News Director.  Baker is a multiple Emmy Award winner and the recipient of AP and Headliner awards, as well as a New York Festival World Medal for coverage of the Iraq War. 

Mark Di Ionno is a lifetime newspaperman and a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist in news commentary, primarily for his work on Hurricane Sandy. He is also a four-time winner of the New Jersey Press Association’s first-place award for column writing. His columns appear regularly in The Star-Ledger, and its online partner,

Di Ionno is the author of three award-winning nonfiction books that include New Jersey’s Coastal Heritage, and A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail, which received the New Jersey Academic Alliance Award.  Backroads, New Jersey was named among the most notable New Jersey books (1995–2005) by the New Jersey Center for the Book. He was also a contributing editor to The Encyclopedia of New Jersey.
Di Ionno's first novel and most recent publication is The Last Newspaperman, which,  along with the Revolutionary War book, was put on NJ 350’s “101 Greatest New Jersey Books.’’ The novel was also a finalist in USA Books's and ForeWord Review's “Best of 2012” contests. He is a graduate of Summit High School, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and father of six.

Jim Schachter is Vice President for News at WNYC, where he is responsible for an enterprise-focused radio and digital newsroom, as well as programs and websites including The Brian Lehrer Show, On The Media, Radio Rookies, SchoolBook, Transportation Nation, and other products of WNYC’s award-winning news team. He joined WNYC in 2012 after almost 17 years at The New York Times, where he rose to the position of associate managing editor after serving as a senior editor in the business and culture departments and at The New York Times Magazine. At The New York Times, he launched a wide range of initiatives, including India Ink, a news blog based in New Delhi; The Choice, a blog about college admissions; an e-book publishing program; The Local, a hyperlocal news pilot teaming the paper with leading journalism schools and community residents; The Carpetbagger, a blog about the movie awards season; and local news pages published in copies of The New York Times sold in the Bay Area, Chicago and Texas.  Before joining The New York Times in 1995, he was a reporter or editor for the Los Angeles Times, the Kansas City Star and the Jacksonville Journal.  Jim and his wife, Pamela, live in Summit, N.J. They have four children ranging in age from 12 to 25.

Kate Tomlinson became Publisher and Editor in Chief of New Jersey Monthly in 1988. She has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Women’s Association of NJPAC, the Overlook Hospital Foundation, the Drew University Board of Visitors, Project Acorn, the Morris County Tourism Bureau, and the City and Regional Magazine Association. Ms. Tomlinson received a B.A. degree from the Radcliffe College of Harvard University in 1977 and a Masters from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, in 1979. 

Prior to 1988, Ms. Tomlinson pursued a career in public service and consultancy, focusing on Soviet economics and East – West trade. She worked on Capitol Hill, both as a congressional aide and as a researcher for organizations advising Congress, and for the Federal Government, as an economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Ms. Tomlinson has also managed a private consultancy whose clients included Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment and Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates. She lives in Summit with her husband, Roger Labrie, and son. 

Mary Alice Williams is a highly acclaimed broadcast journalist with a wealth of experience in the field. Her investigative work on such topics as foreign policy, ethics, technology and health have made her a respected authority and recognized voice for public information. As one of the primary architects behind the design of CNN, the first worldwide television network, Williams oversaw the construction of CNN’s New York Bureau at the World Trade Center prior to the launch of Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980 and served as the channel’s principal anchor and vice president in charge of the New York Bureau until 1989. She contributed to CNN’s award winning program lineup and played a major role in the network’s development and globalization. She was a critical member of CNN’s political anchor team and oversaw the planning and operation of the network’s second largest bureau with responsibility for seven hours of original programming per day. In 1982, Williams was appointed vice president, becoming one of the highest-ranking female executives in American television.

Williams was an anchor on the NBC News team that won a national Emmy Award for its coverage of the fall of communism. During her tenure with NBC from 1989 to 1993, she also anchored Sunday Today, NBC News Special Reports, Yesterday Today & Tomorrow and NBC’s extended coverage of Desert Storm: War in the Gulf. Williams was a frequent anchor and correspondent for NBC Nightly News, Sunrise and The Today Show. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, she wrote and hosted a three-hour PBS special Reaching Out to Heal. She also hosted a companion program to Bill Moyers’ On Our Own Terms, about death and dying, which aired in fall 2000 on PBS. As host of Hallmark’s weekly True North program on personal ethics, Williams earned the 2001 Gracie Allen Award and the 2001 Donald McGannon Ethics in Media Award. Her 90-minute PBS special on alcoholism and addiction, Within Reach, along with her work as a PBS contributing correspondent and anchor on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly have established Williams as a recognized commentator and reporter on broad issues of ethics. One of the highest rated documentaries ever broadcast on Lifetime Television, Picture What Women Do, about women, work and the American family was written and hosted by Williams, winning the 1995 Exceptional Merit Media Award given by the National Women’s Political Caucus.

A published author, Williams adapted her weekly interview program for the Hallmark Channel about strategies for overcoming life’s toughest challenges into a book, Quiet Triumphs, published by Harper Collins. Williams has received 14 honorary doctorates for her outstanding contributions to journalism and television. Born in Minneapolis, she chose to raise her family in New Jersey, where she still resides.

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