Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How journalism has changed

I already shared that I bought Bob Greene's "Late Edition: A Love Story," about his college summers spent working at the Columbus Citizen-Journal in Ohio.

I've read it twice already, and while I still love Greene's writing, I've been thinking about what he says in the book about journalism.

He touches on how women and minorities are treated on the newspaper staff. A woman goes to the composing room with Greene and the entire time they're there, the composing-room staff won't shut up howling and barking at her, something they reportedly do every time a woman enters, and something Greene says other newspapers did, too. And in another scene, the white members of the staff aren't shy about cracking racial jokes in front of their black co-worker.

Greene muses, basically, that it must have sucked to be the affected staffers. But as a young man, he doesn't stand up for them, and as an old white guy, he doesn't really put it into context or go back and ask the people who made the slurs or those who suffered from them what they really thought. He just pretty much presents it as how he experienced it: As a white male, he wasn't treated that way, so why would he give it another thought? A rather disturbing point of view, if a pretty common one for the time. I wish he'd challenged himself more on why he just accepted this, with the wisdom of years.

And in a completely unrelated scene, Greene and some newspaper pals sneak into the one office that has a television to watch the much-hyped final episode of "The Fugitive." They're caught and chased out, told to get back to work. Greene muses that it never would have occurred to the newspaper staff to actually cover a television episode as news, no matter how many millions of their readers were fascianted by it. Since this is a large part of my job today, I find it interesting.

But again, Greene never really says whether he thinks this is a good or a bad thing. He admits that they were ignoring a different way to view things -- TV as news -- but doesn't go any further. I know a case can be made that TV programs still shouldn't be covered in this way, but really, sports is a similar entertainment event. It doesn't matter one bit to our lives if the Vikings win the Super Bowl or Kris Allen wins "American Idol," but now, both are covered in newspapers as a matter of course.

1 comment:

Orchid64 said...

I think that one of the reasons he doesn't offer opinions or do much navel gazing is that professional journalists didn't used to offer opinion as news, so it probably doesn't come naturally to him. It's only since the proliferation of blogging and political theater that the line between news and opinion has blurred. Clearly, he's old school and it shows.