Journalism makes me feel hollow. Not to say that writing does or that world events, both international and domestic, do. The study of journalism, though, has given me cottonmouth (or something like it). It doesn’t interest me anymore.
My respective institution, the Park School at Ithaca College, is not responsible for this, per se, although it has been my time studying the craft at this school that has enabled me in molding my views about the subject.
The issues I’ve addressed in dressing down my potential vocation are as much rooted in the modern essence of journalism as much as it is in practice and training. I’ll advance a warning: I don’t plan on presenting any specific examples through this entry. These are general impressions of mine, and since this is my blog, there isn’t a problem with that.
I’ll start with what it is I’m most familiar with – education. It is here, after all, that we can place, in near unanimity in the current market, tomorrow’s professionals who will represent what the word “journalist” means to John and Suzie Q. What it is that they will see, I fear, is a group of people who have learned a skill. A skill, something specialized, like carpentry or welding. It seems that most students want to learn the trade, and it is the trade that educators want to teach. I call it the automation. You learn the techniques, the structures, how to edit, how to look, how to speak, how to write. And there isn’t a thing wrong with any of that. It’s necessary.
From there, things get a little trickier. From developing the craft, the next jump most journalism students tend to take, and indeed are encouraged to take, is a full-throttle leap into ambition. We want to make relationships early on because, in this business, it is a well-developed sense of nepotism that creates the current. The idea is to begin to form a strong business identity in order to become a player in the game once we leave school.
And with that we’ve already begun to lose some of what it is to be a journalist. From the ground up, there seems to be more about being a journalist than learning a craft, and in our leap from learning-how-to-do-it to doing-it, we step over the maturity of our sensibilities, our awareness of things like justice and compassion, of a deeply rooted sense of beliefs and how those shape our views of things. We miss out on not only the conceptual base of what it is we will be doing as professionals in the field, but also a little bit of what it is we will be in life.
With an underdeveloped sense of how we perceive reality, how are we supposed to accurately depict reality? We learn these things anyway over time, sure, but we’re saddled with the immeasurable responsibility of keeping an informed public right away. It is oversight of this responsibility that we acquire in our ambitious quest for respect and reputation. It is the potential oversight of this responsibility that troubles me. As a journalist, an individual must be in touch with how he or she digests information and what it is that affects the beliefs they have about what is happening.
I don’t blame students for this. I don’t blame my particular school, or any other school, for it, either. We want to learn what we see, and educators teach what they know about how the industry works.
I’m getting a little exhausted, so I’ll close with this. The beliefs I have now were molded by my experience. I am at a point in my life when I’ve begun to synthesize information on my own, not from tidbits cut from a family cloth or from what I’ve heard on the news or from friends. I may be wrong. I may very well be mistaken. I may just be cynical or pessimistic. But, many of my peers and superiors have noted that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I think we’re swimming in it.