Friday, March 13, 2009

A Sign of Ignorance — part 2

Two working weeks have passed since I phoned the "citizens' representative" at the Oregon Department of Transportation to complain about the "Sign of Ignorance" at the Capitol Highway turnoff from Barbur Boulevard.

Sometime last month, ODOT sign crews installed a new bike-on-shoulder warning sign squarely in front of the directional sign to Hillsdale.

I suspected their sloppy installation would take a while to undo.

After two weeks my suspicions are beginning to be confirmed.

If you want to join my little campaign, you can phone the "citizens' representative" to see just how well you are being represented. The number is (888) 275-6368 or go to ODOT web site.

Yes, I have other approaches I can take (Sen. Burdick and Rep. Nolan, are you there?), but I thought testing the obvious one might reveal whether the ODOT "citizens' representative" brings more to the job than the ODOT sign crews do.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Journalistic uncertainty

Today I taught my last class of the term, and, as is my custom, I invited questions on anything having to do with journalism.

One caught me flat-footed.

“If you were a student now, would you go into journalism?”

Dramatic pause.

I stared at the floor, looked up and smiled. “I’m not sure what it means to ‘go into journalism’ anymore. It’s not clear what journalism is becoming.”

Nor is it clear what it means to inform, or be informed, at least through journalism.

As a member of the pre-Internet generation, I have some idea of what it once meant. It seems like only yesterday that it had to do with newspapers and magazines and reading. I left it to editors to direct my attention to what was important, and each day I would sidle up to the journalism trough and partake of the news.

Today I don’t see all that much sidling or partaking. In an age of Twitter, blogs and Facebook, I’m not sure whether there is even a particular hunger for the news, at least the news as I understand it.

Gossip, trivia and opinion, yes; but not the news.

What constitutes journalism today? For a few more months, before newspapers vanish entirely, it may still be defined by “the Press” and its editors.

What then?

Like so many others, I believe a new, sustainable journalism model has yet to emerge, and it probably won’t until we are faced with the utter absence of newspapers. At that point, someone, some organization, some foundation or some cooperative will see the need for reliable sources of information on-line. The skills of newspaper reporting will be handed down to on-line journalists.

Alas, how they will be paid remains a mystery.

So, after a false start or two, I told my inquiring student that future journalists must be fully immersed in the changes taking place in communication. They must be flexible and prepared for the next Internet. If journalists are messengers and the medium is the message, then we must be masters of media and not let media master us.

Personally, I’ve had it easy because I am ending my journalism career at the end of a long, stable journalism era. The next generation of journalists will live through many eras thanks to changing technology. That’s a given. And each succeeding era will be shorter.

So the journalist embarking on a career today has a much more complex task than learning how to report and write. The job is more challenging, risky and exciting.

I saw the student who asked the question later in the day and asked him what he plans to do now that he has taken my journalism class.

“I’m thinking of teaching,” he said.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Advancing" to newspaper extinction

Time magazine is listing The Cleveland Plain Dealer as one of ten newspapers likely to fold in the next few months.

Some on the list, like the San Francisco Chronicle, could fold in a matter of days.

The Portland angle is that the Cleveland Plain Dealer is owned by Advance Publications, which owns The Oregonian. The same corporate pressures that are driving the Plain Dealer to extinction are at work on Portland's metro.

The only good news, if you can call it that, is that Cleveland is in worse economic shape than Portland.

The Time story is further evidence of the need consider what journalism is becoming, or should become, in the digital age.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

"Now-ness" in the Garden

The garden resets our clocks.

Slowly, slowly.

Steps along its “suchness” paths.

Now ... now ... now…. NOW.