The following is a guest post written by Junior English major Will Lyons. (If you are interested in providing your own guest post please contact Leah Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Hiro at email@example.com)
Imagine what it would’ve been like to work for the University of Portland’s student newspaper, The Beacon, in 1970. On deadline night, the flaky art columnist comes running through the newsroom office door and desperately hands off his final copy to the living section editor. After a final glance for spelling errors, a designer carefully cuts the typewritten document with an exacto-knife and pastes it on the final template to be driven downtown to the printer before the 9pm cut-off.
Adobe InDesign suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.
With two years behind me as a writer for The Beacon, I’m beginning to think about what my future in journalism might be, and so are the thousands of aspiring journalists across the nation. No one knows whether or not there will be jobs in a field once known as one of the most respected in the U.S. And if there are jobs, they may not be ones worth having.
The number of clicks on links, web hits, and twitter followers unfortunately are the new paradigms for successful newspapers, not in depth reporting or muckraking. Many journalists write 5 to 6 small news briefs everyday as opposed to one well-researched story a day in order to drive web traffic and to feed the Internet culture’s diminished attention span. The journalists still employed aren’t doing what they signed up for. So what’s a young Walter Cronkite to do?
One answer is to change the journalism game. A new role for journalists could be to do what they do best: to seek the truth, but to then galvanize public opinion behind their findings. Today’s emphasis on the individual and personality makes celebrity one of the most powerful tools to change our culture and fix society’s problems. If charismatic journalists with easily understandable and well-supported claims came to rule pop culture maybe the discourse on politics could change.
Well known journalists could begin to demand solutions to the pressing issues of climate change, Wall Street’s grab and go mentality, our unsustainable consumer economy, and the change in our mental environment from human beings to cyborgs of the screen. The trick is packaging the various messages in chewable bites, a skill at which today’s journalists are becoming more and more adept.
Since editors and advertisers have cornered the tigers of journalism into the 164-character world of tweets and teasers, it is only fitting that we reclaim prominence through the same social media that threatens our current careers.
Journalism is not going away; it’s changing. Perhaps it will go the same route as Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope, who says, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Check out adbusters.org if you’re interested in a group of journalists beginning to “kick it over,” it being all that’s wrong with today’s society.
Will Lyons is a Junior English and Spanish double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his online clipbook is sunsetrat6.wordpress.com