Journalism: now, then, and next

I’m currently volunteering at the wonderful Melbourne Writers Festival, and one of the  perks is a number of comp tickets that I can use to attend sessions outside of my volunteer shifts, and so on Saturday afternoon Erika and I met up at the State Library Victoria to see two panels. The first, When We Talk About Motherhood, was so incredibly, beautifully, terrifyingly powerful that I am still coalescing my thoughts about it, so instead I’ll talk about the second: Journalism: Heartbreak and Resolve.

Moderated by Crikey’s Bhakthi Puvanenthiran and featuring Erik Jensen from The Saturday Paper, Jack Latimore of NITV News and The Guardian, and freelance journalist Ginger Gorman, the discussion hinged on the mental hardships that journalists both encounter and face themselves, as well as the drive to keep going and the hopeful moments that uplift and empower them as well as their readers.

It was a fascinating look both at the industry today and the people in it, especially of the perspective of those who are working to expand and better it with their work and with their support of and amplification of marginalized voices (as writers and subjects), but it was especially interesting to me as I realised with a hint of amusement that it was exactly ten years ago last week that I began studying for my journalism degree at Ithaca College.

I was further amused when I thought about what these working journalists were saying the journalism world (a world I quickly decided at university that I wasn’t actually interested in being a part of) is like these days, and how far off most of my professors’s predictions had been about where the field was heading. This isn’t to say they got it all wrong, of course. They obviously knew that social media would play a large role in the future of the news (although just how large they couldn’t have predicted; one of the panelists mentioned how Instagram is becoming a popular platform for news media, a platform which didn’t even exist during my freshman year and wouldn’t introduce “Instagram Stories” until well after I graduated). And this isn’t to say they should’ve known better, not when new media has changed so rapidly and intensely over the last decade.

But one thing I distinctly remember about my journalism studies was a feeling of… if not pessimism, than resignation. That social media would make us short-attention-spanned and rapidly-reading, that we’d be cutting down our stories to snippets and soundbites. And sure, that’s happened, just like the ubiquity and accessibility of new media and social media has allowed for members of the worst factions of society to pretend their bigoted conspiracy theories are thoughtful, legitimate journalism but has also provided a space for marginalized voices of all sorts to share stories of and from their communities. And for every snapchat broadcast story and 140-character tweet, there’s a riveting 10,000 word longform article that would’ve never gone into print (at least without major cuts) in a traditional publication.

One thing that the journalists on the panel emphasized was that we as readers want to read. We want news. We want thoughtfulness and integrity and truth and rich, multicultural perspectives. Although I am not and probably never will be a journalist, I love journalism and many of my friends work in the media in some form, and I’m always pleased to have the reminder that what they do is appreciated. To look at the journalists on the panel, some saying that there were times that they wanted to quit but didn’t and others saying their worst moments only gave them more determination, to look at the people I know doing great work in new and old media, to look back a decade to when I was a bright-eyed wannabe newspaperwoman without a trace of anger or cynicism… it makes me excited to see what comes next.

Reality is dead; long live Reality

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and I guess I was smart enough as a kid to realise that most fiction writers don’t immediately publish a bestselling novel and turn that into their day job, so I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Linda Ellerbee was my main inspiration for this, between her incredible educational news show Nick News and her Girl Reporter young adult book series.

I stopped wanting to be a journalist sometime in college. Although I loved my classes and my peers, and certain aspects of journalism like copyediting and researching are definitely right up my alley, and I do love the deadline-oriented nature of the job, I just couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. Sometimes I question that, especially when I look at the amazing work some fellow alums are doing, but for the most part I have no desire to step into a newsroom.

Still, I consider both Ellerbee’s work and my time at Ithaca College to have had a huge influence on shaping my life, but between them was something that was even more important: Reality.

Continue reading “Reality is dead; long live Reality”

This Love is Not for Cowards by Robert Andrew Powell (2012): 4.5/5 stars

tlinfc-coverI don’t know much about the Liga Mx. I follow the English Premier League and the Spanish Liga, and I’ve even started watching a bit of Bundesliga recently (although I’ve yet to find a broadcast with English commentary so the only words I can pick up are things like “Dortmund” and “das fitness coach”), so I hardly have time to watch yet another league anyway, although I sometimes catch a match on Univisión while I’m at the gym. I know a few key words and names in Mexican football, Hérculez Gómez and Chivas and Chicarito and the Azteca, but comparatively, I’m in the dark. Before reading Robert Andrew Powell’s gripping book, This Love is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez, I had certainly never heard of Los Indios de Ciudad Juárez.

Continue reading “This Love is Not for Cowards by Robert Andrew Powell (2012): 4.5/5 stars”

Let’s Go to the Movies

Roger Ebert died this week. And I’m glad to see that in the countless articles and blog posts eulogizing him, he is never referred to “only” as a film critic. As someone whose dream job used to be entertainment critic, I’ve sometimes felt like my ambitions were less serious than my peers who dreamed of parachuting into a war zone armed only with a notebook and a tape recorder, even of dedicating their lives to small-town papers to report on their city council meetings.

But entertainment journalism, although it has the potential to be “soft” when reporting on the comings and goings of D-list celebrities, has its place. As the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Ebert demonstrated not only the value of film itself in reflecting or subverting the values of society, but also in discussing and critiquing film and the way it reflects or subverts those values.

1365105444_roger-ebert-articleIn the thousands of reviews he wrote over four and a half decades at the Chicago Sun-Times and other media outlets, he was never afraid to digress into a commentary on social and political issues. Ebert was criticized over the summer for speaking out in favour of gun control in the wake of the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and many of his opponents said that he should stick to talking about movies. But as Ebert so often proved, there are so many times when you can’t talk about movies without talking about life.

Continue reading “Let’s Go to the Movies”