Time, Inc.’s Alan Murray Discusses Data Privacy, Digital Tribes, and Democracy

The Becton Fellowship Program

By Karen Guzman

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony about his company’s misuse of user data highlights one of the biggest challenges facing organizations with digital customer bases, according to Alan Murray, chief content officer at Time, Inc., and president of Fortune.

“The data stewardship piece is going to hit all companies in the next couple of decades,” Murray told students at the Yale School of Management on April 12. “You’re going to have to make decisions as a company on what you will and won’t do with that data.”

Murray spoke at Yale SOM as part of the Becton Fellowship Program. Led by Senior Becton Fellow and Yale SOM Board of Advisors Chair Timothy Collins ’82, the program hosts leaders from around the world for lectures, classroom visits, and candid conversations. Collins moderated the talk with Murray.

The author of four books, Murray spent more than two decades at the Wall Street Journal, where he served stints overseeing digital operations and the Washington bureau, before becoming president of the Pew Research Center in 2012. He joined Time, Inc., as editor of Fortune in 2014.

Murray predicted that Zuckerberg will change Facebook’s protocols to better protect user data, which, while making the company somewhat less valuable in the short term, will ensure its long-term survival.

Digital platforms like Facebook and Google pose serious challenges for journalism, Murray said. These “monster” platforms are helped to cultivate a populace that does not recognize quality news reporting or a balanced view of complex issues, Murray said. On Facebook, users typically assemble “tribes” of likeminded friends, who surround them with a limited perspective, which is then enforced by Facebook’s algorithm.

“A lot of people are getting their news on Facebook, and it’s not a neutral platform, because the algorithm chooses what you see,” Murray said. “The algorithm has become the front page.”

Other challenges for journalism include a politically polarized electorate that has become accustomed to getting its news from media outlets with obvious partisan bias—on both the left and the right—and social platforms’ disruption of the advertising-based business model that has supported newspapers and magazines. Facebook and Google siphon off a lot of the digital ads that would have gone to news sites, Murray noted: “They have made it seriously difficult, if not impossible, to do serious journalism with digital ads.”

While acknowledging that these developments are “very scary” for the health of a democracy, Murray said there are things that citizens can do to fight them. One is to become savvy about where they get their news. “People have to realize that there’s a lot of information out there and be more judicious in consuming it,” Murray said. “Platforms have democratized journalism. In some ways, that’s a good thing, but there are no standards.”

Media literacy education for children that teaches the value of neutral journalistic values is now necessary, Murray said. “People need to understand that there is value to having news that isn’t crammed though somebody’s ideological bias.”

About the Event

Please join us on Thursday, April 12 from 12:00 - 1:00 pm for A Conversation with Alan Murray, Chief Content Officer, Time Inc. & President, FORTUNE. The talk is presented as part of the Becton Fellowship Program.

The Becton Fellowship Program, led by Senior Becton Fellow and Yale SOM Board of Advisors Chair Timothy Collins ’82, hosts distinguished leaders from around the world for lectures, classroom visits, and candid conversations with students and faculty at Yale SOM and elsewhere at Yale. The Becton Fellowship Program was established in 1980 by medical device manufacturer Becton, Dickinson & Company in honor of company Chairman Henry P. Becton YC ’37.

This event is open to the public.

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Speakers

Alan Murray

Chief Content Officer, Time Inc. & President, FORTUNE

Alan Murray is Chief Content Officer of Time Inc. In this role, Alan oversees Time Inc.’s editorial operations and is responsible for its commitment to quality journalism and storytelling. He is focused on harnessing the collective power...

Alan Murray is Chief Content Officer of Time Inc. In this role, Alan oversees Time Inc.’s editorial operations and is responsible for its commitment to quality journalism and storytelling. He is focused on harnessing the collective power and scale of all Time Inc.’s brands to produce and distribute content on every platform. Alan also serves as President of Fortune. As Editor-in-Chief since 2014, Alan integrated the print and digital editorial teams, established new franchises and platforms and helped significantly increase Fortune.com’s traffic. Alan’s diverse background includes serving as President of the Pew Research Center, hosting an eponymous show on CNBC and spending more than two decades at the Wall Street Journal, where he served stints overseeing digital operations and the Journal’s Washington bureau. At Pew, from January 2013 to July 2014, Alan oversaw the rapid expansion of the center’s digital footprint, with website traffic doubling and social media referrals tripling during his time there. He also led the center into an exploration of new data methodologies in its research and an expansion of its global work. At the Wall Street Journal, Alan served as Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor, Online, from 2007 to 2012, with editorial responsibility for the Journal’s websites, mobile products, television, video, books and conferences. He also spent a decade as the Journal’s Washington Bureau Chief, from 1993 to 2002, during which the bureau won three Pulitzer Prizes. Between his stints at the Journal, Alan served as CNBC’s Washington Bureau Chief from 2002 to 2005, co-hosting, Capital Report with Alan Murray and Gloria Borger. At various times, he wrote the Journal’s weekly Business and Political Capital columns and won numerous awards for his writing on economics and international issues. Alan is the author of four books: The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management, Revolt in the Boardroom, The Wealth of Choices and Showdown at Gucci Gulch, coauthored with Jeffrey Birnbaum. He is a member of the Gridiron Club, the New York Economics Club and the Council on Foreign Relations, and he serves on the Governing Council of the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Alan began his journalism career as the business and economics editor of the Chattanooga Times. He also worked at the Congressional Quarterly in Washington and at the Nihon Keizai Shimbun in Tokyo on a Henry Luce Fellowship. He received a bachelor’s degree in English literature as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina and earned a master’s degree in economics at the London School of Economics. In 2005, Alan completed the Stanford Executive Program. He is married to Dr. Lori Murray, Adjunct Scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Special Advisor to President Clinton on the Chemical Weapons Convention. They have two daughters, Lucyann and Amanda, and live in Greenwich, CT.