Sitting and stewing…

It’s a funky time of year…kind of a blah time when you think deep dark thoughts about the meaning of life.

Like: do journalists OWN the right to produce news?
Oh no! Not that argument again! Well, yes, but with a difference. Every term I teach my students about the march of technology that made today’s marvels possible.

Without speech, we wouldn’t have our present method of communicating. Without those Neanderthals with dyes and brushes, art might never have sprung from cave walls to canvas to computer. Each new technology pretty much depends on former technologies to support it and advance it.

So I’m getting ready once again to dive into the past when I took another look at Gutenberg, his press, and the Church. And the ancient Egyptian priests. And their ilk.

Information is knowledge (how I hated that phrase in high school). Trite but true.

Who controls information controls people. At one point in time the Church (be it followers of Ra or Jehovah) filtered all information, thus ensuring the public heard only what they were supposed to hear. Now the media performs the same task, albeit with purer intentions. What is fed into brains is mushed around, accepted or rejected, and spat out in the form of opinions and votes.

Gutenberg and his printing press broke the choke-hold of the Church and allowed all who could learn how to read the opportunity to stand on equal footing with the priests.

As I watch the neutral news, carefully parading both sides of issues to the public, the questions rise once again. Why are some items hot news and others not? What is news and who decides what makes the cut? Why are there only two (or three) sides to each neatly packaged story?

Consider this the rant of the day.

Having worked in news for nearly three decades, I know the answers that are always given to these questions. News is what happens that interests the public. Carefully trained ethical professionals can recognize news and cover it neutrally to ensure the public gets the information it needs to make intelligent decisions.

But with many stories I would guess there may be dozens, perhaps hundreds of opinions and sides. It’s just easier to reveal a truth if it is simple. Break it down to manageable bytes. Don’t confuse the audience with too much information.

And honestly I can get behind that – keep it simple silly. That was how to present the truth with the old media – newspapers, radio, TV.

The Internet allows more time, more room, more freedom to expose ALL sides to issues. And maybe it is time to reach out and include all audiences. Sometimes we may feel alone because our views don’t fit the mainstream…too conservative, too liberal, too too (much too) far out.

I was at a budget meeting of the Lodi Unified School District last night, listening to speaker after speaker explain why THEIR agenda should not be cut. Excellent reasons all, right down to the cute little girl who wants to keep music. I would guess she made the news (after all, Channel 13 did interview her after she gave her speech). As I exited the meeting, I overheard a few folks wondering why the news camera was still hanging around now that the meeting was over. Easy answer – the speakers weren’t passionate enough. They were factual, thoughtful, organized.

The news crew wanted some passion to go with their facts.

In the minute thirty world of broadcast and the 15 or 20 inch world of print, only a limited number of opinions can pop out. I see the Internet/web allowing more and more of the disenfranchised to air their side. Even the wackos we don’t like to make eye contact with. Or the teacher who wants to keep class sizes small and eliminate sports. Or the high school students rallying to keep elementary school music to save the job of their teacher who will be bumped due to seniority issues if the lower grades lose their music programs. Or the four librarians trying to save both their jobs and the libraries at their schools. Or even the middle-aged teacher who sees merit in all sides and wonders how the heck the economy got to this point.

Ya can’t tell every story out there. You can include them by allowing them to tell their stories. Most news sites allow that with comments. It’s a beginning.

I’ve argued against citizen journalists in the past and still have reservations…but are we the know-it-all High Priests of the Truth and Journalism? Or are we outdated?

(…just trying to get your brain juices flowing here. Don’t rant back at me. Think, consider, ponder…respond…think again. It’s good for ya.)

2 thoughts on “Sitting and stewing…

  1. Outdated? Maybe. Some news organizations certainly behave as if they’re living in the past. High priests? Hardly. But there are still journalists out there who act as if they’re in sole possession of “The Truth” (as if there were only one). Does that mean we should all put down our pencils, or their electronic equivalent, and go home? Not at all. Journalism still matters. We often do it well, and there are some stories that might never be uncovered if journalists don’t look under the rocks. We’re just not the only ones who can do this work anymore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s