Journalism at eye-level
: When I talk about the news business these days, I find myself constantly returning to the same refrain:
We must bring journalism down to a human level, down from the tower it built to separate itself from the public, down to eye level.
Please allow me to glue together a series of thoughts on the subject:
: I found myself ranting on the topic a few times recently when I was talking with separate groups of smart folks about the branding and image of journalistic endeavors. The topic of names came up and all the obvious ones for news products have been words you want to etch in granite: Tribune, Times, Guardian. That’s news the way it used to be or some hoped it would be: behind stone walls, inside the cathedral, separate, cold, above, beyond.
Now we are seeing that if journalism is to survive, let alone prosper, it must speak at a human level and must also listen; it must join in the conversation of the community.
Given that, the names we should consider should be more human, like Pulse, Sinews, Face, Eyes, Ears, Tongues, Hearts, Feet, Guts, Shout, Spit, or, yes, Spleen.
Do we admit we are human and have a human reaction to the event? Do we allow ourselves to root for our side in this war — which requires recognizing that we are at war and what side we are on? And if we don’t — if we act as if we do not have our own worldviews, as Jay puts it — doesn’t that too often end up perverting our coverage so, in a futile and misguided effort to be objective, we try to be fair to terrorists (did anybody worry after 1933 about being fair to Hitler?)? Just because you have a worldview doesn’t mean you have to do nothing but argue for it; it doesn’t mean you can’t ask tough and uncomfortable questions; it only means that your questions have some context.
This is really about admitting that we are human. As a human being, you must have a reaction to 9/11 and to deny it, to hide it, is to lie to those to whom you are trying to be truthful, your public. To instead be human and admit your reaction and the worldview it reshapes is to give a context to what you say so your public can better judge it. Isn’t that more honest? Isn’t that thus better journalism?
: Now see a wonderful speech Hodding Carter gave to the AEJMC journalism confab in Toronto two weeks ago. I’ll quote at length; he begins by talking about his newspapering days:
We practiced journalism with zeal and, occasionally, foolhardy abandon. We took up the implicit demands