Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Loose ends: the States of War and Journalism

About that Army recruiting sign at the Sunset Boulevard and Capitol Highway bus stop.

Based on honking and thumbs up signals at our Friday evening peace vigils at the corner, I’d say that sentiment against the war runs about 85 percent in and around Hillsdale. One way to pull the plug on this war is if no one signs up to fight it.

So should Tri-Met confer with communities before selling advertising on transit display space in neighborhoods? Should, for instance, the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association be able to nix Tri-Met advertising for an “Adult shop” (a curious term, that), Wal-Mart or Army recruiting?

The other perturbing aspect of the advertising is that we, the taxpayers, are paying for it. But then we are paying for all of the Bush war misadventures, including contracted torture, privatized armies and new military bases around the globe.

A recruiting ad on a bus shelter is admittedly small change. Still, we have to begin somewhere — why not at the local bus stop?

Regarding the plight of “Old Media” and journalism education.

I’m sure the irony of my relying on “Old Media” for my updates on the demise of “Old Media” hasn’t escaped readers. Consider me a transitional figure. Unlike people under 30, “Honored Citizen” that I am (another curious term), I get my news from print. And like piker interested in disseminating his or her prose, I write about media and (too) many other issues largely on-line.

I probably have another year to go as a newsPAPER reader. I still like the way turning pages gives me just an instant’s moment for reflection. It can make a difference.

Finally, as someone who has taught journalistic writing for nearly 40 years, I believe there will always be a need for journalism courses in high schools and colleges. Journalistic writing teaches students to write for a diverse, unseen audience — certainly more diverse and unseen than their solitary teacher. I tell my students to write for me only as an editor, not as their teacher. Their real readers inhabit the world beyond the classroom.

The discipline of journalistic writing also demands clarity and conciseness, qualities sorely missing in much writing today. Significantly, the Web demands those qualities even more than print does.

Further, the craft of journalistic writing teaches the young writer how to reach readers where THEY are, not where the writer is. For many young people, that is a huge developmental leap — and one to be encouraged.

Finally, journalistic writing teaches accuracy, healthy skepticism and fairness.

Even though journalism may be in crisis (it was always thus), its skills are in great and growing demand and should be taught widely, vigorously and unapologetically.

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