Sophie Charboneau

LaSharah Bunting Discusses the Future of Journalism

LaLaSharahSharah Bunting has been in the news industry for the majority of her life. Bunting  currently works at the Knight Foundation as the director of Journalism, but before she accepted her position there, she worked at the New York Times for 14 years.

I was lucky enough to be able to have a 20 minute interview with her and ask her about herself and where she thinks the future of journalism and her work at the Knight Foundation.


Spartans Innovate: How did you decide that you wanted to be a journalist?
Bunting: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a journalist, even as a child. My parents are news junkies and I was surrounded by journalism during my entire childhood and really the importance of journalism, not just having the newspaper and CNN around, all of that stuff is great but I was really surrounded by the importance of it and what it meant for our democracy and being an informed citizen. Really being in tune with journalism and what people are reporting. So I started as far back as high school and just never stopped.

Of all the different positions you’ve had, which was your favorite?
That’s like trying to pick your favorite child. I’ve loved them all for different reasons.

When I was on the national desk at the New York Times, overseeing the national report and the daily report and multimedia, I really loved that job. I was right in the middle of all the action; there was always something interesting happening: protests, natural disasters, shootings — it was just a really busy time and there were many great opportunities for story telling as well. I was able to tap into the best part of myself as an editor. I’m a really good editor and with that job I was able to play to my strengths.

But then I also really loved my last job at the New York Times as senior editor for digital transformation. Being this digital evangelist in the newsroom for so many years, I really got to think higher level — “What does the New York Times need to become the truly digital first news organization”? — and be in a position to really drive that and help make it happen. I’m incredibly thankful for that.

The best job is one where you are ale to play to your strengths and have some fun, too.

What made you decide to join the Knight Foundation?
 I had been at the New York Times for 14 years and the last couple of years I started thinking about what would my career look like after I left. I could stay and continue to do really great work, but I thought it might be time to challenge myself.

I had the pleasure of being able to take my time in deciding what I wanted to do and this opportunity at Knight Foundation came my way. I immediately was intrigued and saw it as an opportunity to help not one newspaper, like I had before, but to now be in a position to help the entire industry. I saw this as the opportunity to be in the position to impact the entire industry.

What do you do as the Director of Journalism at the Knight Foundation?
I am apart of a team tasked with thinking about how can we support the people in the projects that are transforming journalism and that are advancing the practice. We support a lot of amazing initiatives that are helping to drive change and innovation.

When you think about those funders who are out there doing great work, Knight Foundation is really among the top of that list of those who are driving change. I am proud to be apart of that. A lot of my job includes thinking about “What are the problems we can tackle?” and “What are the opportunities; what are the gaps?”. And then “What can we do as the Knight Foundation to help push that?”.

How have you seen journalism change throughout the years?
Technology has been a disruptor in our industry, and I think maybe for good. We have an opportunity to reach more people with our journalism and that is a great thing. Now they are seeing it in their social feeds and that is an amazing thing because we are bringing it to those people.

I think the focus it on audience is really important and is key. I think that is something evolving. Really great and smart news organizations understand that you need to create engagement with your audience and listen to your audience and that makes for better journalism. That is a really good change that we’ve seen.”

What changes do you think are coming to journalism?
My hope is that news organizations really become more sophisticated about how to engage with their audiences. I think some will take a while to get there, but I think the future looks more like that. News organizations that are really engaging with their readers and understanding the value that brings.

I think technology will continue to be a disruptor and my hope is that news organizations will create a structure where they are able to be more nimble and quick to those changes. I think that it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to local news and some areas there those news organizations that have existed for so long and been the voice of a city, are really having trouble. My hope is that they find their footing and become stronger overtime.

And there is also a lot of smart media entrepreneurs who are coming out and creating their own nonprofit news organizations, websites or hyperlocal news organizations to really address the need in the community. I think there will be this interesting time, where we both have news deserts but then where theres tons of choices for news and some in many ways that are marketed for particular groups but I think that is a really awesome opportunity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 



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