Archive for the ‘Journalism Junkie’ Category

Women in Journalism (and Bob Dylan quotes)

November 13, 2009

That’s the name of my Mom’s last PowerPoint presentation for her JMC110 class (minus the Dylan parentheses). That’s the last hour-and-a-half-long lecture she gave to 125 squirming Freshmen.

I sat in on it because I didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was, and it got me thinking.

That PowerPoint was chok-full of MegaWomen, and students cited their favorites — Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters. And that classroom was absolutely full of young women. (I won’t mention the fact that some of the young men in the class cited Erin Andrews as their favorite woman journalist “because she’s hot” — oops, I mentioned it).

I am in a graduate program in journalism right now that has 19 young women in it, and one guy. One. You know what I have to say about that? The times, they are a-changin’ my friends.

Let’s take a quick look at the newspaperman past: (I’m going to dress up like this for Halloween one year)


Now, a look at the newsman — past (and present):


There’s no way of knowing if this is just us Cronkite…ah…ites who are witnessing first-hand the changing of guards of the journalism profession. And it’s purely anecdotal from my point of view, but things seem to be shifting. All colleges around the US are 60-40 women on average and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. (Anyone know what the classes look like at other j-schools around the country?)

There are two questions that come to mind with this: 1) When did journalism become a woman’s field? and 2) Will we still have to spend most of our lives on morning television before we finally getting the job we’ve always deserved?

And I can make two guesses in answer to those questions: 1) Probably about now, and 2) There likely won’t be morning television jobs to giggle through for the next 20 years.

OK, I thought of three questions: Does this, perhaps, have something to do with the concurrent (and complete) demise of the news industry as we know it? There’s a theory I learned in my Freshman year Sociology class that blew my mind at the time. It said that necessary, subservient, under-appreciated, jobs — teaching, nursing, office management — have become women’s jobs in order to maintain the patriarchal social structure. Or, the social structure forced women into subservient jobs…etc. (Chicken or egg?)

I can’t help but think it at least timely (at best ironic) that more and more women are becoming journalists at a time when all that’s left of the journalism strongholds are a lot of (male) executive editors who watched from their corner offices as innovation was laughed away and the Internet blew up their business model.

And then there are the ones who stood up to the publishers and those who are working now to help the next generation innovate — many of whom are now my professors.

No, in the future, the face of journalism will look probably look more like this:


Oh, and this (the one guy):


Well, I agree with Dylan in this case: Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

(Thanks to Lisa in Phoenix and Grant’s facebook for the photos)


My Mom is in Facebook Purgatory.

October 7, 2009


She’s done it twice now: Requested to be my friend on Facebook.

The last time she tried was years ago — sometime when I was probably a sophomore in college and therefore way too cool to be friends, let alone Facebook friends, with my mom.

And then last week, out of nowhere, after years of peaceful, not being Facebook friends (punctuated only once or twice a week by a comment from her about the fact that I refused to be her friend), she did it again!

So, my mom is in Facebook purgatory — that feared place where you get no answer from your friend request. She’s just sitting on my requests page. And I’m leaving her there. Until I make up my mind what to do with her, at least.

This time, it’s not because I’m too cool for my mom. Now I realize that she’s probably too cool for me. No, this time, I’m leaving her in Facebook purgatory on principle.

What principle? The one that says: That is just not what Facebook is for.

Now, I’m aware that Mark Zuckerberg would probably disagree with me, seeing as how he opened Facebook up to everyone and their Mom (literally) not too long ago. And it’s not that I think that was a mistake. It’s that I never thought my mom would join — or anyone’s moms, for that matter.

I’m aware that my this post makes me immature; I know it makes me seem like I have something to hide. (I promise, I really don’t.)

You see, I am of the (only) generation that remembers what it felt like to get that college email address and finally be able to join Facebook. It was a big, fat deal to a high school senior. It was liberating. It meant you were really in college now (even though you still had 2 months left of high school).

This goes against everything Jeff Jarvis says about the free and open internet. But, I’m not in opposing the fact that anyone should have a Facebook, I’m just in opposition of my Mom using it to figure out just what I’ve been up to for the last four years in college.

I’m not paranoid, I promise. I have a Mom who spent most of her life as a reporter. She wants to know everything about all of her children, and she will find out. She once found my sister at a hostel in Florence, drunk at 2 am. Seriously, my sister walked in the door (tripped is probably more like it) and the Italian guy at the front desk says, “Dana? Your mo-zer ees on thee phone.”

Like I said, that is just not what Facebook is for. It’s not for networking, or job-hunting or growing a virtual garden. It’s for friends — friends that I would not keep in touch with otherwise, friends I can’t see everyday (and, yes, it’s for tracking who’s getting married  and who dropped out and who’s dating and who broke up).

Facebook is for not forgetting birthdays and petitioning your school to have Stephen Colbert as your graduation speaker. In the words of another recent college graduate who finally accepted his mother’s friend request this summer, “it’s for picking up chicks.”

But, with the way things are going, it looks like I’ll have to give in sooner rather than later.

They say there is no privacy anymore, that headhunters and college counselors will find your facebook no matter what restrictions you’ve put up — and not hire you because of drunken pictures of you in Vegas or at a highlighter party, or drinking wine on a metro in Paris. They say that the world is online and online is open and you’d better open up to it or you’ll be left behind. At least, that’s what they’re telling us in J-School these days: Be public, be open, be linked, be your own brand.

Yes, it looks like I’ll have to open up, to be public and to let even my mom be my facebook friend.

–Eventually. She’s staying in purgatory for now.



Len Downie Week

September 18, 2009

Downie speaking to a packed room at the Cronkite School Monday.

It’s been Len Downie Week (as I’ve been calling it) at the Cronkite School — especially for the grad students. And it’s gotten me thinking.

Len Downie is the former executive editor of the Washington Post and he is a serious big shot in the journalism (and political) worlds. He edited Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate; he guessed the name of Deep Throat on the Third try; he oversaw the coverage of every Presidential election of the last 17 years; he was in charge when Dana Priest broke the story on Walter Reed. There’s more.

This week, we got to hear from Len Downie on Monday morning in Tim McGuire’s class on the future of media, we had lunch with him (and the entire Cronkite faculty) later that day, we covered his speech that night in the First Amendment Forum, we got to ask him one-on-one questions in our skills class on Wednesday morning and we heard from him one last time — about Watergate! — on Wednesday night when he introduced a showing of “All the President’s Men.” Whew.

What was amazing about this week was not just the record of this editor, or all of the President’s he’s talked to or the ground-breaking pieces he’s overseen — it’s also the difference between everything he represents about journalism and everything we, the grad students, have ever experienced of it.

This is a man who famously stopped registering to vote (and stopped having political views, he said) the day he became editor of the Post. He literally didn’t vote for 17 years. We all had trouble removing our political views from facebook. (That reminds me, I need to do that.)

The generation gap is not just because of age, I don’t think. I think it’s also about the way we think about journalism. If we all write for ourselves (like I’m doing now), who’s going to keep us honest, unbiased journalists?

Funny I should ask that of you, because I actually asked that of Mr. Downie Wednesday. His answer was absolutely amazing — though it made perfect sense and shocked no one in the room. He said that the public simply wouldn’t buy it if we were trying to pass off our opinions as fact; he said that credibility will still matter — even in a world where information flows freely (literally) and there are no rules.

Amazing. Optimism after a career in Washington. Optimism in the face of what most people think is the great decline of journalism.

One thing they must be forgetting, those Debbie Downers, is that there’s a difference between newspapers (which are certainly declining quickly) and journalism.

I’m going to go remove my political views from facebook now.

To begin with:

September 15, 2009


Journalism and Phoenix.

22 is a good age to be and Phoenix (to my surprise) is a good place to be 22 in. It’s an even better to place to be a journalist.

After my family moved here from Oregon when I was about 12, I spent all of middle school and all of high school hating Phoenix. I didn’t want to move and, after we did, my beloved dog, Trixie (yes, I know it’s a stripper name, but my sister and I didn’t know that when we were kids and named her that), died of Valley Fever. I resented Phoenix.

In high school, where I attended Xavier College Preparatory and my 1989 VW Cabriolet didn’t quite match up to the BMWs and Mustang’s in the parking lot, my reasons for hating Phoenix grew more complex. It had no center and it was too sprawling. I remember using the phrase “wannabe L.A.” a few times.

As soon as I could, I left for the Big City — New York City. It took four years before that Baz Luhrmann graduation song phrase became true for me: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.” And now, there are some things about Phoenix that I find most heavenly — the quiet, the lack of winters, the palm trees, the up-and-comer (who’s so up-and-comer that no one’s discovered us yet) status.

We’re like Brooklyn 20 years ago. (I just hope we don’t turn into Brooklyn today, where a studio costs $2500 a month and every guy you pass on the street is waring tighter pants than me.)

So, maybe it was New York, maybe it was my optimistic post-graduation stupor, but I’ve discovered in the last few months that this is, if you look at in the right way, the best time to be in Phoenix. Kind of like it’s the best time to be going into journalism, if you’re dumb enough (like me and all of my fellow grad students downtown) to think of it as an opportunity and not a pink slip.

In any case, they’re both on the edge of change. And if you stick around through the crappy part, you’ll be the ones to choose where it goes next. I’ll keep you posted.