jillianduch
So, I was working myself into writing a rant about Barbara Ehrenreich, who suggested in a commencement speech that a journalism degree was a "license to fight" because, you know, we will work as long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, even if it means trying to carve a meager living in an industry that seems to be dying. I enjoyed the humor in her speech, but the more I thought about it, some of her underlying premises irked me.

But, I mostly let it out on my roommate (sorry, Crystal). So, instead, here are a few thoughts:

• The best journalists are "guerrillas," as Ehrenreich says these times demand. They fight with the tools they have, whether it be the mass publication of their words, FOIA, gumption or persuasion. I do worry, though, that the infiltration of social networking, video, and the 24-hour news cycle of the Internet is encouraging more noise - more gossip - than thoughtful discussion or well-researched enterprise articles. Perhaps editors will spend more time worrying about Twittering breaking news than applying resources to investigative projects or series or to mentoring young reporters. In tough economic times such as these, choices have to be made.

• I suspect many people who are prone to afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, if necessary, would be willing to do so from another profession that could produce a similar altruistic feeling but offer more job security and better benefits. (Attorneys, teachers, NGO, other non-profits, government, etc.)

• Although I'm young and have relatively little experience upon which to build my opinions, I feel like something is being lost. Every time a newspaper, whether it be the underdog in a two-newspaper town or not, is lost, the community loses something. Unlike many blogs and other Internet mechanisms that are draining advertising dollars from newspapers, true journalists have bosses, mentors, people who hold them accountable. They see firsthand the people who are hurt by their stories and the people who are helped. They put their phone number in the paper for readers to call them, and they are pretty sure thousands (if not more) are reading what they write. And, generally, they know the difference between reporting and editorializing.

• I also know that journalism gives you a view of the human condition unlike any other. It's one thing to read compelling journalism; it's quite another to see and question and process and write and to do it all within a deadline. I, personally, would feel I had lost something if I didn't get to do that on a regular basis anymore.

• I have a sinking feeling journalism's plight is going to get worse before it gets better. And the people who are going to suffer the most for it are journalists.

• On a lighter note, I read Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America" years ago and enjoyed it. She sends herself on a series of experiments to try to make enough for next month's rent working minimum-wage jobs. Her work is funny, thoughtful, and well-researched, but I wish she did more to write about the people who are actually trying to live with minimum-wage jobs than writing about a middle-class, middle-aged woman taking herself on a bare-bones vacation. I might suggest Frank McCourt's "Teacher Man," Ken Fortenberry's "Kill the Messenger," or Leon Dash's "Rosa Lee: A Mother and her Family in Urban America" - or any other of Dash's books.
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